Police say internet, phone scams becoming increasingly common | VailDaily.com

Police say internet, phone scams becoming increasingly common

One Edwards resident tells the story of how she avoided being scammed out of thousands of dollars

When Anne Roberts received a cashier’s check for more than $2,000 from the person buying her $500 TV console, her fears were confirmed – it was a scam.
Anne Roberts/Courtesy photo

An Edwards resident was nearly conned out of thousands of dollars while trying to sell a TV console — a story that an Eagle County Sheriff’s Office detective said he hears far too often.

Internet and phone scams date back at least as far as the “Nigerian prince” era of the 1980s but likely before that, Sgt. Detective Aaron Veldheer said. The specifics vary as scammers have gotten quite creative with their narratives and their use of technology, but it typically starts with something that’s “too good to be true,” he said.

“It’s kind of like that old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Veldheer said.

This may seem obvious, but many people overlook red flags and choose to believe the best in people, he said. Missing those red flags and falling for a scam can instill a feeling of embarrassment or shame that leads to these increasingly common crimes being underreported, he said.

“Smart people get scammed all the time,” Veldheer said.

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As Anne Roberts corresponded with an out-of-state buyer interested in her TV console, she said something began to feel “a bit off.”

The buyer said he lived in Nevada, causing her to wonder why he was planning to send a truck to Eagle County, Colorado, to pick up a piece of furniture, Roberts recalled. He offered to send her more money than was needed for the purchase and asked if she could use the rest to pay the driver when he arrived.

Roberts had bought an ad in the Vail Daily to sell the TV console. The man asked her to call and have the ad taken down so no one else tried to purchase it.

She obliged. But when she described the situation to a Vail Daily representative, they informed her that it was likely a scam. The representative advised that Roberts file a report with the police and change the security information on her bank account.

Shortly thereafter, the man sent Roberts a cashier’s check in the mail for a little over $2,000. When Roberts informed the man that he had greatly overpaid for the item she was selling, he requested that she send him a check back to reimburse him for the difference.

When Anne Roberts received a cashier’s check for more than $2,000 from the person buying her $500 TV console, her fears were confirmed – it was a scam.
Anne Roberts/Courtesy photo

Realizing that the whole thing had been a scam was a “very uncomfortable feeling,” and now, Roberts said she wants to make sure that others don’t make the same mistake that she nearly did.

“At least I was on top of it enough to not do anything with those checks,” she said. “These people — they’re so conniving.”

If confronted with a potential scam, Veldheer said there are a few things people can do to look into the situation further. If you have the name or phone number of a potential scammer, look them up online to see if they are who they say they are and are calling from where they say they live.

If they say they are calling from a company or governmental agency, call the main number of that entity to confirm that the communication is legitimate, he said.

For example, one scam that has been on the rise in Eagle County is the solicitation of payments to settle fake arrest warrants, Veldheer said.

Scammers have been calling residents asking for bank account numbers or gift card payments to settle arrest warrants. They often impersonate officers or detectives with local law enforcement, using names they pull from the internet. Someone has even pretended to be Veldheer, he said.

Anyone who receives such a phone call should call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office to settle the matter, but he confirmed that the Sheriff’s Office does not request payment to quash a warrant over the phone.

When Roberts was notified of the potential scam, she did some investigative work herself. She saw a Missouri bank listed on the cashier’s check she received and decided to give it a call, she said.

The woman she spoke with at the bank guessed the exact amount of the check the scammer wrote before Roberts even had the chance to tell her.

“I said ‘How’d you know that?’ And she said, ‘Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re sending them out all over the country.’” Roberts recalled.

The idea behind these scams is to convince someone to send back a reimbursement check, but meanwhile the fake cashier’s check is rejected if the victim tries to deposit it. In this way, the scammer ends up getting the for-sale item as well as thousands of dollars and the victim’s routing and account numbers, the woman from the bank told Roberts.

A less confrontational option of dealing with scams is to report them to the local dispatch center’s non-emergency line at 970-479-2201 and take the necessary steps to make sure that personal information is protected.

“The best advice would be just let it go,” Veldheer said.

He stressed that people should not feel any shame about falling for, or reporting, these kinds of crimes. Even as a seasoned investigator, Veldheer said he himself fell for a scam time-share offer.

While most scams do not result in arrests, reporting them helps investigators like Veldheer keep track of the latest trends used to dupe people such as WhatsApp or bandwith.com, which scammers use to disguise their numbers.

“We just don’t have the funding or the manpower and some of it is we don’t have the technological know-how to track all these things down,” he said.

When scammers are calling from other countries using multiple layers of technology to mask the source of their communications, there is little else police can do beyond help educate their communities.

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