Routt County residents hit by phone fraud

Callers pretend to be family members, acquaintances in distress


— Two fraud cases resulting in losses of nearly $5,000 were reported to law enforcement on Wednesday. Both cases involved individuals who wired money to someone posing as a friend or family member.

An elderly couple from Oak Creek received a phone call Tuesday from someone posing as their grandson, claiming to have gotten in a car accident while on a ski vacation in Canada, Routt County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger said.

"He even got someone on the phone pretending to be a police officer," Klinger said. "It was a total fraud, and they're out $4,500."

The couple even received a second phone call Wednesday, asking them to wire another $2,000 to pay for medical bills, after the incident had already been reported to the Sheriff's Office, Klinger said.

Another fraud case was reported Wednesday to the Steamboat Springs Police Department by an employee at a local art gallery, who received a phone call Tuesday from someone posing as an artist who displays work in the gallery, Police Sgt. Rich Brown said.

The man posing as the artist said he was trying to get to Steamboat Springs, but his carry-on luggage containing both his plane ticket and his wallet was stolen. He asked the woman to wire $430 to his travel agent, so he could book another flight, and said he'd pay her back when he got into town, Brown said.

"He spoke to her on a first-name basis," Brown said. "She thought it was really him, so she left work and went to Wal-Mart and wired money to California."

When the woman never heard from the artist on Wednesday she gave him a call, and quickly realized she'd been scammed, Brown said.

Though it is unknown if the two cases are related or their similarities purely coincidental, the callers are using the same method to appeal to their targets.

"They're both the same - they're playing on people's heartstrings," Klinger said. "They pose as a family member or acquaintance in some kind of distress."

Fraud reports, including phone scams, have been commonplace in Steamboat Springs, Brown said. He urged people to be very careful if they get phone calls asking for money, even if they think the caller is someone they know.

"Verify all the information before you take the steps to send money anywhere," Brown said.

If you get a call from someone purporting to be a family member, call another relative and try to verify the story, Klinger said. If you're unsure about the caller's story, contact your local law enforcement agency, he said.

Above all, if you're unsure, don't send the money, Klinger said.

Since whoever is behind either of the scams has had success in Routt County, they will likely make additional attempts, Klinger said. "Once they hit an area like this, they usually work it pretty hard."

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail


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