A Fraud Alert has been issued by St. Joseph County's sheriff, and he's asking residents to help protect family members, neighbors and friends.
During July and August, Sheriff William J. Redman says his department responded to 12 fraud reports totaling losses of $89,589.
All the scams were initiated via phone call or online message, and almost all of them involved transferring money through pre-paid cards.
You can find much more information about these scams below from the St. Joseph County Police Department:
Today Sheriff William J. Redman issued a Fraud Alert and request to community to help protect family members, neighbors and friends against a rash of frauds occurring across our community and the nation. During the months of July and August the St. Joseph County Police responded to 12 Fraud Reports totaling losses of $89,589.00 by the victims.
All the scams were initiated via phone call or online message. The victims were of a variety of age ranges, although a couple of the victims were elderly, unfamiliar with technology and susceptible to criminal persuasion. One victim was a recent widow and assumed the caller was a company the deceased spouse had dealt with. One victim was deaf. The scams all cast large nets by touching large numbers of people using automated-calling or Google search results with a fake phone number.
One common payment transfer method used by almost all the scams is the use of pre-paid cards. This should be a huge red-flag that the caller is attempting to get your money through a mostly untraceable method. Sheriff Redman warns, “never purchase pre-paid gift, Mastercard, Google Play, eBay or any other type of card to make payment to anyone.” People should also take precaution when doing an online search for phone numbers for companies such as Google and Apple. Scammers have fake numbers online making the caller think they are calling a reputable company.
Sheriff Redman stated, “we want to make all of the residents of St. Joseph County aware of the techniques scammers are using. The scammers cast a very wide net and just need to catch a few people. Generally, the people caught in the scammers net are those who are vulnerable or are put into a temporary state of fear or concern by the scammer and thus are not thinking with a clear mind. The victims have recent widows and people who have been put into a state of fear regarding the safety of their personal information or the safety of family members. Often these scammers have just enough information about the victim to not immediately raise a red-flag in the mind of the victim.”
The Sheriff asked for the assistance of the public, “we need people to help protect those who might be vulnerable. Those folks that are older and not familiar with computer or technology. Those that have recently experienced trauma or the loss of a loved one and might not be clear-headed. Those who might fall victim to a caller that knows what bank they use or what city their family members lives in, or that a spouse or loved one has recently passed away.
Sheriff Redman closed by stating “we need the whole community to look out for those that might be at risk. These scams are causing very serious damage, often to those that cannot afford to lose the amounts of money they are being scammed out of.”
We have included a short summary of each of the dozen fraud cases for the two-month period.
Summary of SJCPD July & August 2019 Fraud Reports
July 5, 2019 63-year-old
Victim found a dog on an online site, obtained photos and AKC papers for a dog wanted to purchase from a breeder in Oklahoma. The victim was to make a down payment for the dog and the breeder would then have the dog delivered to the South Bend Airport at which time the remainder of the purchase price was due. The victim attempted to pay the down-payment via PayPal, but the transaction would not go through. The breeder told the victim to then make payment with eBay gift cards. The victim purchased $500 in eBay gift cards and gave the numbers to the breeder. The breeder instructed the victim that the down payment was received, however that the victim needed to also make payment with more card numbers to person at South Bend Airport who would be receiving the dog. The victim became suspicious and attempted to cancel and get a refund from the breeder. The breeder stopped answering the victims calls and was no longer posted online with dogs for sale.
July 10, 2019 23-year-old
Victim found a number online for Amazon Customer Service and called the number about a bank charge for Amazon on their bank account. The “customer service” rep told the victim the bank account had been compromised and that he needed remote access to the computer and the account. The victim did so. The “customer service” rep then told the victim he would need some payment to fix the breach and told the victim to purchase $900 worth of Google Play cards and call back with the numbers of the cards. The victim purchased $900 of cards and called the scammer with the numbers on the cards.
July 12, 2019 64-year-old victim
Victim applied for an online loan from a very legitimate website for US Loan Company. A short time later someone from the loan company called. The caller told the victim he would need Walmart Money Grams totaling $3,000 as loan fee and upfront payment for her loan. Victim went and got Walmart Money Grams and mailed them to the caller.
July 18, 2019 84-year-old victim
Victim received phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer in the town where their grandson resides. Caller claimed the grandson had been arrested and imprisoned and he needed $6,000 dollars to get the grandson out of jail. Caller told the victim to talk a taxi to grocery store to buy a magazine and then put the money inside the magazine and mail the money to an address. Victim was only about to get $3,500 dollars and mailed that along with magazine to the PO Box.
July 19, 2019 24-year-old victim
Victim received a call from AppleCare stating the computer had been hacked and compromised and that someone could get access to all their personal information and banking information. Victim gave remote access to caller. Caller told the victim that the computer could be fixed, and the personal information could be protected, but payment to Apple Care would be required. Victim was told to go purchase Google Play cards and call back with the numbers. Victim purchased $1,400 worth of Google Play cards and gave the numbers on the cards to the scammers.
July 25, 2018 58-year-old
Victim stated their recently deceased spouse handled all technology and banking. Victim received a voicemail from PC Remote stating that $499 dollars would be taken from bank account if they did not
return the call immediately. Victim called the phone number left on message and was informed the victim was owed a refund from PC Remote for an earlier subscription. Victim gave scammer remote access to the computer and the scammer showed what he said was banking account with $3,500 too much money refunded into the account. Scammer told victim he was going to be fired because of the over-refund and he had a wife and kids to care for and asked victim if they would help fix this. The scammer told victim to go get Walmart and Google Play cards and call him back with the numbers so that he could “replace the extra money refunded.” The victim went and purchased $4,000 of Walmart and Google Play cards and called the scammer with the numbers off the cards.
July 29, 2019 87-year-old victim
Victim was contacted about some computer problems and ended up giving access to computer a “Shawn from Toshiba Computers.” While “Shawn” had access to the computer, he gained access to her banking accounts. Victim stated on July 23, $6,309.00 was taken from one account and $5,975.00 from another. Victim also stated a banking Visa Card had a cash advance of $400.00 to unknown person. Victim also stated on July 24 Shawn again called and told victim to go to the Apple Store at University Park Mall to purchase $2,000.00 in Apple Gift Cards and give the number over the phone to Shawn. Victim went and purchased $2,000 in cards and called “Shawn” with the numbers off the cards. “Shawn” called her multiple times and from different numbers. Victims total losses were $12,309.00
August 8, 2019 55-year-old victim
A deaf victim received Facebook message from someone posing as an old friend. Scammer was claiming to be a “lottery expert” that could help him win $1,000,000. The scammer was messaging and texting the victim and having him multiple $500 Google Play cards to an address in Encino California. Victim sent $62,500 to the “lottery experts.”
August 8, 2019 67-year-old victim
Victim was messaging on social media with someone about an organization called United Nation Development Program that would help deal with the IRS and give the victim money to help buy a house. Victim was told that for $3,000 they would get help with the IRS and $200,000 of housing assistance. Victim was told Fed-Ex would come pick up the money. A delivery truck stopped at the house and picked up the envelope with the $3,000. Victim was no longer able to contact the organization or the person they had been messaging.
August 23, 2019 28-year-old victim
Victim found a house to rent on Craig's List on the internet. Victim contacted someone claiming he owns the property via Facebook and sent him $500 deposit and first month’s rent for $980 totaling $1,1480+480. Victim later discovered address was non-existent and the fake landlord has blocked them on Facebook.
August 23, 2019 46-year-old victim
Victim found number online for Apple Care 1-844-824-2027 about phone issues. After speaking with an unknown party on the phone, they hung up and called back on the number 1-844-519-7101. The unknown party advised that they work for Apple and could help her out with her phone problems, but they would need a payment of $100.00 on an Apple iTunes card. Victim then went to a nearby 7/11 and retrieved an Apple iTunes card and called the person back with the card numbers and with their debit card number.
August 26, 2019 51-year-old victim
Victim received a message that they were wanted by Federal Court because they failed to show up for summons for Federal Court Jury duty. Victim returned the call and was told could be arrested but could end the matter for $900. Victim was told to purchase Walmart prepaid Mastercard’s each one for $454.94 each and then call back. The victim purchased the cards and called the scammer back, at the end of the conversation the scammer requested the victim’s social security number and told the victim to go to the Federal building downtown South Bend and pick up a receipt for the payment. The victim went the Federal court and was informed that it was not them and it was a scam.