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Front Page » August 4, 2009 » Carbon County News » Scams continue to become more sophisticated
Published 1,822 days ago

Scams continue to become more sophisticated


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Scams to get money from people while offering nothing in return are nothing new.

During the years, news agencies have warned time and time again that something that seems to good to be true, often is.

In the past, newspaper, magazine or late night television ads contained scam offerings galore.

Other scam offers were sent through the mail, according to consumer protection officials.

Currently, scams are prevalent on the Internet as well.

One type of fraudulent ad running left and right in the present weak economic times concerns government grants.

Supposedly, many of the ads claim the government is giving money away for all kinds of reasons.

But while some of the ads may be legit, others can take people for thousands of dollars.

The scam ads also lead people into making contacts that could result in major personal financial losses as well.

Price native Shirley Anguish had heard about that grants were being given to people for various reasons so she searched the internet and found a site called grants.gov.

It appeared to be a government site for obtaining grants.

"I had been told about a site, but I didn't type in the right address and this is what came up," said Anguish. "It looked so official."

Anguish registered to apply for a grant and a letter with an enclosed check for $2,980 arrived in the mail. The letter said her grant for $40,000 had been approved.

The letter came from the grants.gov processing center in Tallahassee, Fla. It explained that the enclosed check was to be used to pay processing fees and taxes on the grant. To do that, the consumer only had to deposit the check into his or her account and pay the fees by making a telephone call to talk to one of the company's agents.

The problem is that the check, as official as it appeared, is no good, according to local banking representatives.

Had Anguish made the deposit into her account and paid the fees, probably by electronic check, the processing fees, money from her account would have been gone and in only few days the check she had received would have been sent back as bad.

"It looked so official," said Anguish. "It looked like a government web site and everything was done so well. But I became suspicious about a number of things concerning it and took it to my bank."

The first clue that the whole thing was a scam was obvious before even opening the envelope. Here was a company saying it was located in Florida, yet the evelope was mailed in Canada. Next, Anguish was expecting some forms to fill out for the grant, instead the check came in the mail.

Most interesting was that Anguish tried to call the number and it was so busy that she kept getting a recording to call back later.

"I think they are so busy that they can even keep up with the phone calls they are getting," she said.

Anguish took the check to the bank and they confirmed the check was not good.

"This was a very sophisticated scam, one of the best I have seen," said Errol Holt of Zions Bank who helped Anguish with the check. "I haven't seen one this good before. If you called the bank the check was issued from and gave them the account number, it is a real number. But it is a number that was stolen from that company and the name on the check doesn't match the account number. These guys are getting better at these scams all the time."

Often these kinds of scams are accompanied by letters that have spelling and gramatical errors in them, because many of the people that run the scams are foreign and do get the nuances of the English language very well. But this one was well written. However, Anguish did spot another thing that made her suspicious. The term "American dollars" was used in the letter. No one from the United States would talk about American money that way.

Anguish took the documents to the Price Police Department and they looked at them. However, unless she was a victim of a crime, which she avoided there isn't much they can do.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people being taken by this," said Anguish. "It just looked so right."

There are a number of things to consider when applying for a grant, the first being that generally no government gives grants to individuals. No matter what someone tells you, this doesn't happen.

Secondly, anyone that asks someone to send money before other money can be released for almost any purpose is a scam artist. The scams take various forms, whether it be grants or winnings, but money sent to get other money means someone will make money while someone else will lose it.

Finally, watch for the foreign connection. In Anguish's case the Canadian postmark belied the sunny Florida company smile.

Anguish was not a victim because she asked questions of officials who can be trusted. If in doubt about any offer for money, individuals should contact their local bank or financial institution before proceeding.

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