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Scams: They Can Be Convincing and Elaborate

Original post made by Detective Hall, Atherton: other, on Apr 21, 2009

I recently investigated a scam which cost one of our residents thousands of dollars. These scams are not an Atherton problem; they happen in every jurisdiction every day.

Scams have become more believable and more complex in recent years. The Internet has helped the perpetrators develop cunning schemes. The personal touch of a telephone call seems to be a common thread in some of the more successful scams. The perpetrators build trust by being available. They engage their victims in telephone conversations.

The Internet has made it possible to route calls very inexpensively to far corners of our globe. The suspects purchase telephone numbers, which are local or toll free, and route the calls to other countries.

These suspects purchase domain names (web page addresses) which appear to be legitimate. They use might display a copy of a legitimate web site. Or, they might just use it to send emails from official looking addresses.

In a recent case, the suspects created roles for different parts of their scam: banks, airports, attorneys, customs agents, even embassies. Each of these characters spun tales which seemed believable. They were all well rehearsed, nimble on their feet, and insistent.

The lesson here is an old one. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Before you send money to ANY stranger, stop! Run it by someone you can trust: a friend, a banker, or a Police Officer. If you fall prey to one of these scams, please report it to the Police. If nothing else, you may help someone else from becoming a victim.

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