A 73-year-old woman told Juneau police on Monday that she was defrauded out of $35,000 during an online business transaction.
On the same morning, another report of Internet fraud came in. This time, it was an elderly woman who had tried to buy a vehicle online. She lost $1,500 and still doesn’t have a car.
A 46-year-old man then called JPD. Someone had opened up a bank account using his information and tried, unsuccessfully, to open up a credit card.
“It sounds like he stopped it just in time,” Juneau Police Department spokesman Lt. David Campbell said of that case.
It’s not unusual for scams to reach Juneau, but it is unusual for three reports of frauds to come in on a single morning. Campbell said the cases are not related.
Unfortunately for the victims, there’s not much the local police department can do. One was an international case, the other was an inter-state case and not much is known about the third case.
“We just take the report, pretty much,” and refer the victims to the proper authorities, Campbell said.
Here’s a description of the scams involved in these cases:
The 73-year-old victim was a business woman who has done business with the same Canadian company for the past 10 years. Unbeknownst to her, though, the Canadian business (which JPD declined to identify) had their email hacked.
“She was (planning on purchasing $35,000 worth of items for her business), then she got an email from who she thought was the company,” Campbell said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But it wasn’t. It was the hackers.”
Campbell said the hackers told the woman via email that they wanted to make this purchase differently than in the past, through an online bank transfer. By the time she learned of the email hack, the transfer had already gone through.
“She’s going to have to work with her bank obviously (to get the money back),” Campbell said, “and she reported it to the feds as well.”
A 46-year-old man reported a scam to JPD on behalf of his mother, whose age was not listed in the police report. Campbell said the son reported his mother had tried to buy a Subaru Outback from a person from Maryland who had posted an ad for the vehicle on Craigslist.
“They had emails back and forth with the seller,” Campbell said, “and the seller requested that they use this payment device where you basically go buy a — it’s called a Visa Green Dot card — at Fred Meyer. So the seller recommended they go buy a Visa Green Dot card for the amount of the purchase, which was $1,500, and that they leave it as an unregistered card.”
After the woman paid the $1,500 to the seller, she never heard back from him. When they contacted Visa Green Dot services about it, she was informed that there was nothing the company could do because the card was unregistered.
“Since it’s inter-state issue, this is an issue that the feds look into,” Campbell said. “We basically told him that contacting the feds at www.ic3.gov is the mechanism of getting it into the feds’ hands.”
The U.S Department of Justice website recommends reporting Internet crimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3 for short. The website is run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. For more information visit justice.gov/criminal-fraud/report-fraud
The third case involved a 46-year-old man who said someone had opened an account using his information at a local KeyBank branch, and that person tried unsuccessfully to obtain credit cards.
“He says apparently the person was never able to get any credit cards, but the fact that they were able to open an account was, yeah —,” Campbell said.
The JPD police report did not indicate how the suspect obtained the victim’s information. Police do not have any suspects in the case.
For those wanting to protect themselves from Internet schemes and fraud, Campbell recommended being “extra cautious” when entering into financial agreements, particularly if someone else is initiating the contact.
“If you contact somebody and if you’re using a known thing, like you go online and make an Amazon purchase, then you don’t have to really worry,” the police lieutenant said. “But if suddenly out of the blue, some vendor contacts you and says you owe us this money, I’d be very, very suspicious.”
Juneau’s Craigslist page is rife with scammers, and Campbell said he recently found himself targeted in a scam. As he was trying to sell his home earlier this year, his real estate agent came over to his home at his request to take photographs to create a virtual tour of the home.
“I think like the very next day, friends of ours said they saw a Craigslist ad for our house to be rented,” he said. “Apparently, the scammers put the photographs that had been uploaded online, created a Craigslist post and were trying to rent my house out to people.”
Campbell said he contacted Craiglist about the fraud, and the post was removed by the next day. It served as a reminder to him, though, about the precautions one needs to take with their identities and information online.
“I think people, if they’re buying stuff on the Internet and they’re not having face-to-face conversations with people, then — I don’t know what the percentages are — but there’s a pretty high probability that they could be scammed,” he said.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.