Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Authorities are warning of con artists posing as debt collectors who dupe their victims into thinking they’ve got unpaid court fines that could lead to their arrests unless settled immediately.
According to the state Attorney General’s Office, the scammers are claiming to represent various courts located across Washington state and demanding that money be wired to them in order to prevent their arrests. Officials believe the scammers are setting their phone ID to make it appear they are calling from official court offices.
The Attorney General’s Office advises that courts never call people to collect debts and that courts discourage people from wiring money.
OLYMPIA — Be careful about giving money to groups that claim to be helping victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, state officials warned today.
In what some would consider a disturbing sign of the times, Attorney General Rob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman issued the caution barely 24 hours after a pair of bombs were detonated near the finish line of the iconic race.
Fake fundraisers will use the tragedy to scam people into making bogus contributions, they warned. Be careful with your money and make sure the donation helps those who really need help.
They offered some good tips for making any charitable contribution, but particularly in times of tragedy. Those tips can be found inside the blog.
Here's a news release from Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office:
On Monday, June 4th, 2012, the Liberty Lake Police Department Contacted a magazine company called Strickly Business 1. The company was attempting to sell magazine subscriptions door to door without a license and was issued criminal citations for Soliciting Without a License. Salesman told Liberty Lake Officers they recently came from the Seattle area.
These types of magazine sales companies have surfaced in Spokane County several times in the past couple months. Investigators from the Better Business Bureau have warned consumers that these types of companies are required to be registered with the Secretary of The State's Office and required to obtain a business license for such types of sales.
These types of companies have gained the attention of Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose office sent out the following release:
Guess who is back in town? It’s the door-to-door magazine sellers from out of state who appear on doorsteps claiming outrageously priced subscriptions will help fund “second chance” opportunities for inner city youth. The Washington Attorney General’s Office has issued warnings about such visitors before, and is again alerting consumers to beware of these solicitors and think twice before buying their magazines.
The Attorney General’s Office has received numerous complaints from victimized consumers who paid $50 to $784 for magazine subscriptions purchased from door-to-door sellers. Consumers say they were touched by the solicitors’ stories and believed their purchases would be for a good cause. Solicitors claim to be earning money for college, working toward a better job, receiving points for a free trip, or contributing proceeds to help homeless youth.
“Unfortunately, another common theme is that time and again, consumers throughout the country never receive the magazines they purchased, or hear from the sellers again, and have no idea what happened to their money.” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Many of these solicitors claim to work for “business or job training” companies that send young adults door to door to give them a “fresh start” on life. In a recent complaint to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, one seller claimed to represent a company called “Strictly Business.” The consumer did his own checking and found the company was based in Texas. It had a Better Business Bureau rating of “F” for failing to respond to complaints and failing to deliver magazines.
“Besides the potential of falling victim to fraud, there are many other risks involved, such as threats to personal safety or the possibility of being a victim of identity theft. It all makes buying items from strangers who knock on your door a bad idea,” added McKenna.
Consumers should always check out a charity with the Secretary of State prior to making a donation. A state search engine listing registered charities is available at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.
Many of these sales people claim they are raising money for school fundraisers, which is usually not true. If you are contacted by these types of sales people you are urged to contact the Better Business Bureau at 509-232-0579 to verify the validity of the company
Authorities are reminding people to be cautious when responding to purported "Secret Shopper" and other offers through email or phone after a Spokane Valley woman lost nearly $1,000.
The woman told a sheriff's deputy on Monday that she responded to an email asking if she would like to participate in the Secret Shopper program. She received a FedEx envelope on May 11 with a money order for $980, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
She also received an email explaining that she was to deposit the money order into her bank account, withdraw $805 and send it via Western Union to Tony Adams at 40 Arsene Rd., Quezon City, Manila. She was told to keep $175.
The woman's bank notified her on May 19 that the money order was no good and that she was responsible for the $980. She received additional money orders in her mailbox that day with instructions to send money to Johnnie Swift in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Mike Michon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Joe Cole from Novi, Michigan.
Spokane businesses are being targeted for cash in a scheme that involves someone posing as a jailer to collect bail bond money for a supposedly arrested employee.
At least three businesses today reported phone calls from a man claiming to be a sheriff's corrections deputy seeking bail money for an employee jailed for a drunken driving crash, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
The son of the owner of Dewey's Burgers and Brews on North Division Street was at the bank trying to withdraw money when a bank employee grew suspicious of the scenario, Chamberlin said.
Earlier today, a man claiming to be James Sullivan with a sheriff's personnel number of 6331 tried to get $1,600 from another local business owner. The man told the owner he couldn't give the owner the employee's name because of privacy laws but said he could provide a general description and that if he guessed the name, he would confirm if he or she was in custody.
The owner offered a name and the man confirmed and said he was in jail for drunken driving and for the crash and needed $16,000 to get out, or a $1,600 payment through a bail bond company.
The owner withdrew $2,000 and the man stayed on the phone for more than an hour as the owner went to a WalMart to send the money in two $800 money orders. The man requested one be sent to Nichole and the other to Seth Thomas in Florida, then hung up when the owner said he would only send the money to an actual business.
Sheriff's officials confirmed no employee by the name of James Sullivan exists. Corrections deputies are not authorized to contact people to set up bond agreements.
Anyone who is targeted by the scam is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
Authorities are again warning of the "grandparents scam" after a north Spokane County man wired nearly $20,000 to Peru.
The man said he received a call about 10 a.m. Tuesday from a man he thought was his grandson. The caller said he needed $2,400 to get out of jail and that if he wired the money to Lima, Peru, they would avoid a two-day waiting period, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
He did so, and the man called again saying the judge increased bail and he needed $6,250. She transferred that money, then transferred another $6,250 upon request.
The man called again Wednesday about 9:30 a.m. and asked for $4,800 to pay lawyer fees. The victim transferred the money, but he refused another request for money that afternoon and called the sheriff's office.
It turns out the man was not his grandson.
The sheriff's office released the phone numbers the man called from today as part of a warning to the public: 438-998-6142, 514-458-3080, 438-993-6948, 438-998-6142
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Talk about a dirty scam.
Federal prosecutors in Florida say at least three people working for a septic tank company duped customers into buying about $1 million in unnecessary products — in some cases enough toilet paper to last more than 70 years.
More than a dozen customers were told they needed special toilet paper to avoid ruining their septic tanks because the federal government changed regulations on toilet paper. The federal government does not regulate septic tank products.
The trio pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit wire fraud. The Miami Herald reported that they worked for Riviera Beach-based FBK Products.The trio faces up to two decades in prison when they are sentenced in February.
The Idaho Department of Finance is warning that a mortgage-modification scam is targeting Spanish-speaking Idahoans, promising to lower monthly mortgage payments but instead just charging an upfront fee of $1,995. The company is calling itself Freedom Companies Inc., Freedom Financial Mortgage, and several other names containing the word "freedom." “This company, using the term ‘freedom’ in its name, asks homeowners for private financial information, charges an unlawful upfront fee, and then leaves already distressed homeowners worse off than they were before," said Gavin Gee, director of the Department of Finance. "That’s not ‘freedom;’ that’s a scam.” You can read Gee's full news release here.
Here's a news release from Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan:
A 63-year-old Spokane Valley man is out $250 after he sent a “fee” to a company that told him he had won 3.5 million dollars and a new Mercedes in a lottery.
The victim reported that he sent the money, but was called a second time and told to send an additional $350 to cover a “federal stamp to go through the IRS.” He refused to send the second payment.
The victim reported that he received news of the lottery winnings in a phone call from two men, a Mr. Washington and a Duane Moore, both of whom had Jamaican accents and said they represented Global West Moon Fruit of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The lottery scam is an ongoing fraud where victims receive word by phone call or e-mail that they are a winner and must pay a “fee” or “taxes” to collect their prize. It is unknown how many intended victims don’t fall for the scam, but enough people are duped to keep the fraud alive and well in Spokane County.
Crime Check sees recurring reports from victims who have mailed or wired money to the “lottery officials” only to see their money disappear with no prize ever received.
The easiest way to avoid becoming a victim is to ask if you have actually entered any sweepstakes or purchased any lottery tickets for the stated event. If you haven’t, you aren’t a winner - keep your money in your pocket.
Idaho homeowners are being targeted in a scam in which notices that look like government forms are mailed to them or posted on their doors, inviting them to join lawsuits against their mortgage lenders and claiming they can get large principal reductions or other monetary relief. “The scam is a pretext to collect an unlawful $5,000 upfront fee from homeowners,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “The representations in the solicitations are false and are designed to prey on vulnerable homeowners. My office is currently investigating this company.” The company called Corvus Law Group; click below for the attorney general's full news release and consumer alert.
Scammers from Canada have been targeting Idaho seniors, posing as grandchildren who have run into trouble while abroad and need money wired right away; three Idaho families have fallen for the scam in the past two weeks, the Idaho Attorney General's office reports, and lost thousands of dollars. “You may think that you wouldn’t fall for these scams, but they’re designed to catch you off guard,” said Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “Con artists play on your fears to make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.” Click below to read the full "Consumer Alert" Wasden issued today.
A Spokane man who swindled several potential renters out of about $15,000 has been sentenced to a year pin prison.
Jeffery S. Crutchfield, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree theft and was ordered to spend a year and a day behind bars and pay $15,070 in restitution.
Crutchfield was considered a model tenant at 1328 E. Wabash Ave. when he began advertising the home for rent on Craigslist. He collected deposits from at least seven potential renters, but when they showed up to move in, they realized they'd been duped, court documents say.
Crutchfield has been in jail since his arrest last October.
He has previous theft convictions in Oregon, as well as a third-degree assault conviction relating to a 1996 drunken driving crash that paralyzed a woman. He was sentenced then to 13 months and jail and denied responsibility for the crash, according to previously published.
A nationwide identity theft scam is targeting citizens who may have neglected to fulfill their civic duties.
The Grant County Sheriff's Office is warning of a cam that involves a caller telling citizens a warrant has been issued for the their arrest because they failed to respond to a jury duty summons.
The caller requests Social Security numbers and birth dates to verify information.
“Give out your Social Security number and birth date, and bingo, your identity was just stolen,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said in a prepared statement. “When in doubt, don’t reveal your personal information.”
Authorities called the scam "particularly insidious" because it uses intimidation by people pretending they are with the court system.
The fraud has not been reported in Grant County but has surfaced in at least 11 states, including Arizona.
The FBI and the federal court system are also warning about the scam.
If you get an e-mail from the IRS asking for your name, address and other information so the agency can check its records, promising you a $50 reward for being so helpful…don't respond. Don't open the attachment. Don't do anything except hit the delete button.
It's a scam, a spokesman for the IRS says.
The e-mail, which is making the rounds, is an example of "phishing", or trolling for personal information that can then be used for illegal purposes. How sneaky are these folks? They mask their real e-mail address with one that purports to be @IRS.gov .
"We don't solicit information over e-mail," said David Tucker of the IRS office in Seattle. "And we certainly don't offer cash rewards."
These scams are around all the time, but often ramp up at tax time, Tucker said. If you get one, you can notify the agency by e-mail at phishing@IRS.gov . You can also read more about phishing and protecting your personal information at a special IRS web page found here.
UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) — An attorney charged with stealing $99,000 from two elderly couples he represented has met a judge's deadline to appear in court for trial.
Fifty-three-year-old Mark Morrison didn't appear for trial Monday after his attorney said he couldn't arrange for an ambulance to bring the bedridden counselor to the Fayette County Courthouse.
But the Herald-Standard newspaper in Uniontown is reporting that County Judge Steve Leskinen believes that Monday's delay and some related motions may be a last-ditch attempt to put off the trial that has been pending since 2006.
Leskinen has found Morrison competent to stand trial even though the attorney showed up on a gurney and claimed to be unable to speak during a competency hearing in November.
The judge's staff says Morrison arrived in court Tuesday morning.
ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Police say a Georgia woman used a friend's baby to collect more than $1,600 in child support from an ex-boyfriend after she convinced him the child was his.
Dougherty County Sheriff's Capt. Craig Dodd says Regina Thompson's ex-boyfriend paid the money over two years. Dodd says the ex-boyfriend even had pictures made at the girl's birthday party.
The 38-year-old Thompson has been charged with five counts of theft. Police say she was keeping her friend's child when she concocted the scheme.
The girl's mother, Lastraga McCloud, didn't know anything about the plot. Police say it began to unravel when the girl, now five, began to talk more and told Thompson's ex-boyfriend, Joseph Golden, that he wasn't her father.
Thompson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
A 30-time felon described by police as a "one-man crime wave" is headed to a Washington prison for a short-lived crime spree in Spokane last spring.
Ricky Wayne Everett, 33, was sentenced to 43 months in prison this month for theft of a motor vehicle. Sentences for unlawful issuance of a bank check, fourth-degree assault, attempting to elude police and forgery will be served concurrently.
Everett, who was wanted for passing bad checks in Maryland, was arrested in May for buying a car from a Chattaroy couple with a fraudulent $13,900 check.
That was just a couple months after he left federal prison after serving time for impersonating a U.S. marshal in Oregon. He moved to Spokane in April after meeting a teenager over the Internet and quickly caught the attention of law enforcement, who said he carries a Taser and has told citizens he's a police officer.
Everett held a local business license private investigation firm called Ricky’s PI Service, which he apparently used to help perpetuate scams. He also has a history of responding to accident scenes as a police officer or as a paramedic.
Federal prosecutors in Oregon have called his mental state, "a puzzle, to say the least."
Law enforcement is again warning of a swindle known as the grandparents scam after a 79-year-old Spokane Valley woman sent money to a con man claiming to be her grandson.
The woman called Crime Check on Monday and said a man claiming to be her grandson called on Dec. 9 and asked for money to bail out jail in Canada.
The victim believed him and sent a $2,750 money order to a man named "B" in New Jersey, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. She later realized it was scam.
"Citizens in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s grew up in a more trusting era and are particularly susceptible to this type of fraud," according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. "Suspects can pick their victims from obituaries where the children and grandchildren are occasionally listed by name."
Law enforcement is again warning of a swindle known as the grandparents scam after a 77-year-old Spokane County woman sent $3,000 to a con man claiming to be her grandson.
The woman sent the money to Kent, England on Wednesday after receiving a call from someone she thought was her grandson, who said he had been arrested at the Canadian border after a friend was caught with drugs, and he needed money for bail.
“The woman questioned the money going to England, but the “grandson” convinced her that was the way Canadian authorities posted bail,” according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
When he man called again on Thursday requesting she sent $2,500 to Niagara Falls, employees at Western Union persuaded her not to comply.
The woman learned of the scam after calling her grandson.
“Elderly victims are frequently targeted by this type of fraud and may become known to the suspect through published obituaries that list surviving relatives, according to the Sheriff’s Office. “Spokane County sees three or four of these scams that are successful every year.”
Last fall, a similar scam bilked a Spokane woman out of $17,000.
And last month, Walmart employees stopped a woman from sending $4,200 to a supposed lawyer in Canada.
Anyone with an elderly relative should warn them of the scam.
Police are warning of a scam targeting the elderly after a conman nearly bilked an 89-year-old Spokane Valley woman out of $2,500 last week.
The man called and said he was reviewing employees at a Spokane financial institution “to see if they were handling her account correctly,” according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.
The man asked for her balance, then asked her to deliver a $2,500 check to a man named “Meyers” at a nearby grocery store.
“The intended-victim said she was preparing to leave with the check when it occurred to her to call the bank,” according to a news release. “Employees there quickly squelched the attempted fraud.”
Another woman last month told police she nearly sent a man posing as her grandson money for bail in Canada before realizing it was a con. (Read a story on that scam here.)
People with elderly parents are encouraged to talk to them about potential frauds. Thieves may scan obituaries seeking elder widows or widowers to target.
“Persons in their 70s and older grew up in an age where people were more trusting in others, and the elderly frequently fall prey to this type of con,” Sgt Dave Reagan said in a news release.
With two lawsuits pending against Kootenai County mortgage modification services and several other investigations ongoing statewide, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is calling on Idahoans to beware of companies that offer to help those facing home foreclosures - for an up-front fee. “Most of the time, the people operating modification companies are unqualified and unlicensed, with no experience in the mortgage industry,” Wasden said. “Even if their initial intentions are noble, they soon discover they cannot fulfill the promises they made to consumers. Inevitably, the company closes or files bankruptcy, and homeowners are left in a worse position than before they contacted the company.”
Anyone having trouble paying their mortgage should contact their lender directly, the attorney general said. Homeowners who have difficulty negotiating a modification can get help from a nonprofit housing counselor; information on the process is available in a new free brochure from Wasden’s office. The brochure, “Foreclosure Prevention and Foreclosure Scams: How to Tell the Difference,” is available online at www.ag.idaho.gov, or by calling toll-free (800) 432-3545.
Wasden recently filed a lawsuit against APS Northwest Idaho LLC, a Kootenai County mortgage modification company, for numerous violations of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. He’d earlier filed a similar lawsuit against Coeur d’Alene-based Apply 2 Save, which is now in bankruptcy, and reached a separate settlement with a former Apply 2 Save executive.
“This year we’ve received more complaints about companies that offer mortgage modification services than any other type of business,” Wasden said. He encouraged Idahoans to report any instances of foreclosure rescue fraud to his office and the Idaho Department of Finance; both agencies have complaint forms on their Web sites. The Department of Finance Web site is http://finance.idaho.gov.
As far as crime goes, there is low, there’s downright dirty and then there’s the grandparents scam.
An 82-year-old Spokane woman was bilked out of more than $17,000 of her savings last month by swindlers who persuaded her to wire the money to bail her grandson out of trouble with the law in Canada.
“I felt so stupid,” said Rose Alexander, who was conned by a man pretending to be her adult grandson, Spencer. “But I wanted to help.”
Alexander agreed to speak to the media about her ordeal in hopes that it will help prevent others from becoming victims. Many of those who’ve been scammed don’t even tell police.
Read the rest of Kevin Graman’s story here.