Dishonest people try all kinds of tactics to steal our money. We’ve talked about a number of them in this column, from Nigerian scams to work-at-home schemes.
It’s bad enough when these people try to take our hard-earned dollars. When they try to scare us through intimidation or threats, we get angry.
And, really, we shouldn’t. We should simply IGNORE THEM, because in virtually every case they’re empty threats. But it’s not easy, especially when the schemers target older citizens.
It happened recently to an elderly resident of Phillips-Strickland House in Bangor. She had agreed to buy chocolates by mail from a firm in Belgium. Soon after sending in her order, including her address and phone number, she received an offer from Haplin Data Services, Locked Bag 32, Bundall, QLD 4217, Australia, to enter a sweepstakes with a potential prize of $15 million. She notified the company she wasn’t interested in paying the $29.95 entry fee or having any further dealings with the company.
That prompted a call from someone who tried to pressure the woman, saying his company knew where she lived and implying she might be harmed. When the woman threatened to call the police, the caller said he would tell investigators that she was involved in an international scheme to launder money.
Nelson Durgin, executive director of Phillips-Strickland who brought this to our attention, says the woman was understandably upset, even fearing to go outside. He assured her that the caller — likely thousands of miles away — was almost certainly in no position to follow through. She changed her phone number and is trying to get her life back to normal after that most unsettling call.
When they encounter such resistance, some phone scammers issue what amount to empty threats. The truth is, such calls from “boiler rooms” across the nation and around the world are blind taunts with no way a caller can back up the cowardly warnings. IGNORE THEM.
Threats to get the targeted victim in trouble are becoming more common. In our case locally, the caller told the woman he would report her to the police as taking part in an international money laundering operation. This makes about as much sense as a bank robber telling police the bank manager was at fault for keeping all that money in one place. The only criminal enterprises these crooks could report are their own. IGNORE THEM.
Fraud artists make their living swindling people out of their money, and they do so by hiding in the shadows. Their calls are often untraceable (even unidentifiable), their addresses are P.O. boxes, their names and the names of their companies are usually fictitious. Carrying out threats against uncooperative victims is expensive and runs the risk of exposing the scammers to scrutiny by law enforcement officials. The crooks don’t want that.
Have a trusted friend or relative look over unsolicited offers before sending money. Be careful about disclosing your personal and financial information. Don’t leave yourself open to threats that thieves have no means or intention of carrying out.
Northeast CONTACT has reported the above incident to the Office of Fair Trading in Brisbane, Australia. We’ll keep you posted.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration, now in its 30th year, of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. Interested and motivated prospective volunteers are always needed and welcomed to apply to help with our mission. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer ME 04412, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.