PEPPERELL — With the cooperation of three would-be victims, police have foiled two attempted scams and are checking on a possible third, Sgt. James Peters confirmed Monday.
All of the incidents occurred in June and prove, as Peters and Detective William Greathead told seniors earlier this year, that residents must be on their guard and unafraid to contact authorities if they are suspicious about phone calls or items received in the mail.
The most recent attempted scam occurred June 22 when a resident received an envelope, allegedly from a New York credit company, delivered by a reputable overnight delivery firm. The envelope contained a check and a letter explaining that the person’s credit card account had been wrongfully charged for a sum of money, Peters said.
The letter explained the company was refunding the wrongful charge and asks the recipient to deposit the check. The check is completely normal.
“It’s called skimming,” Peters explained. “The company obtains a person’s credit card information from a credit card company or other means and sends a check for the amount of a wrong charge. The person deposits the check to their account to cover the alleged charge. The perpetrator then acquires the bank routing number from the check and drains the account.”
Peters said Greathead checked on the New York company that allegedly sent the notification and found it was actually a company from India which is probably working with contacts within the United States. “We have notified the Secret Service,” he said.
Another incident occurred June 19, involving an elderly South Road resident regarding mortgage insurance.
“The person received a solicitation by mail to apply for mortgage insurance for the outstanding mortgage and asking for a date of birth,” Peters said, but there was one little problem. “She has no mortgage or loan on the house.”
“A nephew questioned it,” Peters said, “apparently because of some misspellings and incorrect figures. There are people who are in the business of providing (legitimate) mortgage insurance but we’re going to be checking on this one.”
A third incident took place on June 13 when a man, allegedly from a telemarketing firm, offered by telephone to mail a $500 check to a resident, provided the resident mailed back a blank check so that the routing number could be obtained.
“She had given him the numbers over the phone,” Peters said. “(Later) she went online and transferred her money into a savings account to protect it.”
Peters said another commonly-encountered scam shows up in e-mails from countries such as Nigeria.
This reporter has received several e-mails allegedly from that country but also from other third-world nations. Usually the mails are electronically signed by someone claiming that millions of dollars need to transferred out of that country, either to protect the money from political turmoil.
The e-mail author asks for a U.S. contact with a bank account into which the money can be placed, with the account holder receiving a large “guaranteed” payment. The U.S. bank account number and identity of the American are needed, of course, but the end result is an drained bank account and stolen identity.
The e-mails were turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In another scam, a significant foreign lottery jackpot has allegedly been won and an 800 phone number is provided to claim the winnings.
When the call was made around 8:30 a.m. local time, the person who answered spoke with a foreign accent and sounded as if she had just woken up. She seemed unaware of the lottery’s existence until questions were asked.
“Don’t open up any e-mail from someone you don’t know,” Peters said. “Usually if you do you can be deluged with offers.”
Peters said he and Det. Greathead are available at any time to help residents who think they have been scammed. Calls may be placed to (978) 433-2424.