2009-12-03 / Letters

State Police Warn Beware Of Scams

To the Editor:

A McConnellsburg resident stopped by the barracks this morning, handed me a piece of mail and said that I might find it interesting. He was right.

In my visitor’s envelope I found a letter – addressed to him – from “Fidelity Grant Inc.” of “Mephis, TN.” (Yes, that’s how the writer spelled Memphis.) This letter announced that my visitor’s grant – of $35,000.00 – “had been approved”. My visitor, of course, had never applied for a grant.

According to this letter, my visitor would first need to pay an “administration fee” of $ 2,950.00 if he wanted to receive his “grant.” The letter contained several sizes of font. It was (electronically) signed “Sue F. Foley,” but the typewritten name underneath the signature was “Jerry Foley.”

I hope your readers see where this is going.

The sender instructed my visitor to call a phone number and ask for a “James Grayson.” Mr. Grayson, the sender alleged, would verify my visitor’s “file” and “prevent any delay” of the release of his “grant” to him. My astute visitor had determined that the postmark on the envelope and Mr. Grayson’s phone number were both Canadian. He told me that he called that number, talked to a real person and was urged to deposit the check that had been enclosed with this letter – as soon as possible. The check that he spoke of was included with the letter. It was computer generated, and indicated $ 2,950.00 was to be paid to my visitor. The check was digitally signed by “Gary C. Tolman” and the account-holder was “Esurance, Inc.” of San Francisco, Calif.

Not one name, state or postmark in this entire piece of mail matched up.

What I’ve shared is just part of what the letter contained. To get to the point, this is a common ploy used to defraud unwitting folks out of their money. It sounds too good to be true and it is. The sender is a hustler – a criminal – and is usually from another country. These people are difficult to track down and prosecute. Typically, these conartists urge potential victims to deposit the aforementioned check into their personal bank account, then ask the victim to send a personal check back to the criminal (in order to receive the “grant” money – or whatever lure the criminal is using). If the victim does so, they will soon be notified – by their bank – that the deposited check was fraudulent, and they’ll realize that they’ve been duped and their own money is now gone.

I’d also like to caution your readers about a second scenario that’s been occurring around the state. It typically involves someone approaching the home of an elderly person. The suspect convinces the victim that he or she has a legitimate purpose for being there. They’ll say they want to cut a tree near the victim’s property line or that they need the victim to show them where their water / sewer lines run. They will use any ruse they can to distract the victim and/or get them outside of the home. In the meantime, their accomplice(s) enters the residence – either through the recently opened door, or by breaking in – because the homeowner is now distracted. They steal cash, jewelry, and any other items of value. The suspects often communicate by cellphone the entire time and are usually gone before the victim realizes what’s happened.

I urge your readers to be discerning so that they won’t fall prey to these and other schemes. I also ask that they keep a protective eye open for their elderly neighbors and relatives. Thank you for sharing this.
Trooper Angela Roher
Pennsylvania State Police
Criminal Investigation Unit

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