October 26, 2005
Hood River County Sheriff Deputy Don Dillenbeck was surprised to learn that the government wanted to send him $5,000 last week just for being a good citizen.
But he had been even more surprised several days earlier when he was notified of winning a $12,500 government grant. His surprise was magnified by the fact that he had not even applied for the money.
Dillenbeck received both telephone calls while relaxing at home after a busy day on patrol. His surprise quickly turned to suspicion when the callers, both with heavy Middle Eastern accents, requested personal information. They claimed that it would be impossible to send him the funds without a date of birth, social security number and banking account data.
“I told them just to send the checks in the mail because the government surely had my address. But they insisted that a check could not be issued because that was not the way things were done,” he said.
After listening to the calls, Dillenbeck informed his “benefactors” that he worked in law enforcement. And then he began asking for more information.
“I told them that I believed this was a scam – and that they had called the wrong person,” he said.
However, he said the second man on the other end of the line was undeterred in his quest. Even after Dillenbeck hung up on him, a “supervisor” called back in an attempt to convince him that the monetary gift was genuine.
“I then insisted again on having a check sent to me and this individual told me that he worried about the potential for mail theft,” said Dillenbeck, “I told him that I’d take that chance, but he still refused to issue a check.”
The deputy traced the phone numbers for both apparent scams. The first call had originated from Alabama instead of Florida as he had been told. The other call appeared to have been made from outside of the U.S.
“The government doesn’t just call you up and offer you money. But we are starting to get reports from other people in Hood River County that are also getting these offers,” he said. “We want to caution people never to give out personal information over the phone unless they know who they are dealing with and that it’s a reputable agency.”
Dillenbeck said telephone fraud artists use varied angles for gaining access to your bank account. But the end game is the same, he said, and that is the theft of your money or your identity.
“Generally, people can get your name, telephone number and even your address off someone’s mailing list or through an Internet search. However, they need your personal information to really accomplish a crime,” said Dillenbeck.
Another scammer appears to be working the Hood River area, according to City Police Officer Tiffany Hicks.
She said two women came into the police department last week to report that they were the victims of a fraudulent transaction. Both subjects had paid for a photographer to take family pictures outside of a studio. However, the male subject never showed up for the appointment and they had been unable to locate him. Hicks said the man approached his victims on the street and showed them samples of his work. He then made arrangements for the photo shoots, taking some money upfront, but never showed up at the scheduled time. And the business information that he gave them turned out to be bogus, according to Hicks.