Holiday scammers target unwary
One traditional holiday activity has police concerned.
“Fraud schemes have traditionally been used around the holiday season,” said Port Aransas police executive Lt. Darryl Johnson.
Johnson said the schemes typically begin with an email or phone call telling a person he or she has won a lottery or something similar. However, the informant says, some “up-front” money will be needed to take care of taxes or some other expense.
The victim is talked into sending a cashier’s check or a money order – and, of course, never hears from the criminal again.
“Unfortunately, elderly people are prime targets of this scam,” Johnson said. “Some of the victims have been swindled out of their life savings.”
Johnson said these crimes are particularly difficult to prosecute successfully because most start in thirdworld countries, where governments are either unwilling or unable to cooperate in investigations.
In any case, he said, there’s little if anything a local police department can do except advise residents to stay clear of such schemes.
“Any time you’re approached by phone, mail or Internet and promised a big reward that’s predicated on your providing funds, it’s most probably a scam,” he said. Such Internet enterprises as Craigslist also have been used as pathways for the scams, Johnson said.
“One of the best pieces of advice is the saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’,” he said.