Police offer red flags for scams

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Eight things you should never do when using a money transfer service

• Never send money to people you have not met in person.

• Never send money to pay for taxes or fees on lottery or prize winnings.

• Never use a test question as an additional security measure to protect your transaction.

• Never provide your banking information to people or businesses you don’t know.

• Never send money in advance to obtain a loan or credit card.

• Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it’s a real emergency.

• Never send funds from a check in your account until it officially clears — which can take weeks.

• Never send a money transfer for online purchases.

source: Western Union

The Steamboat Springs Police Department has seen another spike in the number of residents becoming victims of scams.

In some cases, the elderly are being targeted.

Detective Stuart Hutton said there are a few red flags that likely indicate a scam.

“Ninety-nine percent of our frauds involve Western Union,” Hutton said. “Western Union is the conduit of choice for the bad guys because it’s highly untraceable.”

The service provided by Western Union allows people to wire money across the globe, but Hutton said it only should be used to send money to people you intimately know. Even on Western Union’s website, the No. 1 warning the company has for customers is to never send money to people you have not met in person.

Besides Western Union, Hutton said people also should use caution when using other money wiring services such as MoneyGram and MoneyPak’s Green Dots.

“It just so happens it’s an easy way for crooks to do business,” Hutton said.

Hutton said the most common fraud reported is the overpayment scam. There are many variations. For example, the fraudster offers to purchase an item from a person on Craigslist and the fraudster sends a check for more than the amount. The victim then is told the overpayment was a mistake and is asked to wire back the excess amount. A few days or weeks later, the victim realizes the original check was a fake and is out the money.

“It can take sometimes a couple weeks for that check to run through the whole system to the bank the check is drawn on,” Hutton said.

He said to make sure the check clears.

“If you’re being scammed, what’s the hurry?” Hutton asked.

Other popular frauds are employment scams that offer to pay people money for secret shopping, or to do repackaging.

“They’re just too good to be true,” Hutton said.

In one local case, Hutton said a scammer was sending GPS equipment to a person and having them repackage it and ship it to Chechnya and Kazakhstan. It is suspected the GPS equipment was purchased with stolen information.

In another local case, a man received a call from someone who said they were with the Internal Revenue Service. The man was told he could not hang up the phone until he went to the bank and completed a transaction.

“The IRS is not going to strong-arm you like that,” Hutton said.

People also should be cautious of requests for money from people on social networking sites, Hutton said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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