Original article was published last month by Holland Sentinel
Ottawa County — Telephone scam artists are targeting people in West Michigan. At least two Ottawa County residents have been scammed out of more than $2,000 total, according to Ottawa County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Bennett.
The Sheriff’s Office issued a warning this month after receiving more than a dozen complaints from residents. While most did not fall for the confidence scheme, Bennett said, the fact that two did lose money suggests there are more victims. Some victims,too embarrassed to report being bamboozled by strangers, don’t call police.
More information from other victims could lead police to the culprits, Bennett said, adding that thieves stealing by phone often don’t even live in this country. Ottawa County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Wolffis said older people are thieves’ most common target — though people of any age can fall victim. They prey anyone likely to trust a stranger, offering them a significant prize — such as cash, vehicles or property, Wolffis said. The catch? The caller needs a cash security deposit — and are told to get a Western Union or WalMart green-dot debit card — before the prize can be delivered.
“You should never have to send money to receive a free gift,” Bennett said. “You should know the organization you’re dealing with, from past experience, or have some literature sent to you before making any donations.”
Never give personal or credit card info to unknown callers, he said (A similar phone scam: The caller claims a relative of the victim is jailed in Mexico or elsewhere and needs bail money, Bennett said.)
The best response to a caller saying you’ve won big money are a big prize is to simply hang up, Bennett said. But he recently heard another appropriate response from a man who avoided being victimized.
In that case, Bennett said, the man was told he’d won a $10,000 cash prize but needed to put down a $5,000 deposit.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you take the $5,000 off the top and send me the rest?” Obvious (the scam artist) wouldn’t bite on that,” said Bennett, chuckling.
People who have gotten these types of calls are asked to report them to police.
Source: Holland Sentinel