By Marc Robertson
The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office is issuing an alert this week to area residents who may be contacted by callers or through social media with offers of prize money or opportunities to earn extra income.
A company calling itself Global International has contacted a number of La Salle County residents in recent days to announce that prize winnings of between $3 million and $10 million can be claimed immediately.
The story, according to La Salle Cpl. Anthony Zertuche, is entirely fictitious, and leads promptly to a request that the potential prize recipient send $500 to a distant address in order that “identity and address may be confirmed” and the prize money claimed.
Cpl. Zertuche said he investigated the apparent scam and contacted a number that he was given by a potential victim, to find that the call led to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. An internet search, he said, subsequently revealed that the number belongs to a company by the name of Distributel, which operates in Canada.
“The person reporting the attempted scam told me that the caller was very persistent and demanding,” Cpl. Zertuche said. “We want to warn people of the dangers of these scams. This is a trick to get you to give up your money. There is no prize waiting for you.”
The sheriff’s office is reiterating a reminder to all area residents never to give banking information, social security numbers, or any personal information to callers, by email or over social media, when those callers are not known personally.
“Do not fall for a trick like this,” the officer said. “No one should ever have to pay up front to claim a prize or to become eligible for an award of any kind.”
The Western Union money transfer organization repeatedly reminds its customers never to wire money to strangers and not to wire money in advance for products or merchandise that they have been promised. Funds sent by wire transfer cannot be reclaimed and are often untraceable.
In a further scheme, scam artists have been advertising income opportunities on social media sites, including the popular Facebook network, offering to pay for a program in which privately owned cars are wrapped in vinyl advertising. That program, according to the sheriff’s office and several nationwide media sources, is a money transfer trick that involves cashing one check and paying with a second.
Callers who respond to the advertisement are told in a congratulatory email, phone text or social media message that they have been approved for the special program and should shortly receive a check that they may deposit in their bank account.
One of the organizations advertising on Facebook goes by the name of Imflash Technology Company, whose representative uses the name of Collins Anderson.
“Please confirm that you did receive this message so that we can process funds that would be sent to you for the Wrap Program,” the company notes in its email to potential scam victims. That email is then followed by another approximately three days later, including the message “Your silence has been giving me hard time at work because my boss has been raising eye up on me. Please feed me back about the check you deposited, so we can get your vehicle wrap this week.”
The messages include faulty English grammar and spelling, and indicate an unfamiliarity with the language. References are made to opportunities for income of $500 a month with advertising for products such as Subway, Coca-Cola and Red Bull. There is no regard for the age or condition of the client’s vehicle.
A check is mailed to potential victims in the amount of $1,850 or more, and recipients are encouraged to deposit the money in the bank, keep their portion of the funds as payment and then to make a withdrawal to pay a company that will place advertisements on cars.
The checks are mailed from out-of-state companies, including Aurveda Wellness Corp. in Boonton, New Jersey, and are written on non-existent accounts, among them JP Morgan Chase Bank. When recipients deposit the checks and make withdrawals, they are held responsible for the funds. The money they have drawn from their accounts cannot be retrieved.
In most cases, scam victims are lured by potential prizes, easy income, or calls for help, according to investigators. Persistent calls and messages add urgency and indicate that deadlines are approaching, that such offers may not be made again, or that the person managing the prize money or business deal is under pressure to complete the transaction.
“You have to be vigilant and you have to trust your instincts,” Cpl. Zertuche said. “Be aware of what kind of tricks are being pulled out there, and remember the rule that if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.”