'Tis the season for fraud scams

The Yavapai County Sheriff is warning of two scams that have taken Yavapai County victims recently. Too many of these scams target seniors who may trust initial information and be too embarrassed to seek help.

"Craigslist" - Many scams show up on Craigslist. A Black Canyon City victim was taken by a listing for two ATVs and trailer for the sale price of $2800. The 64-year-old woman thought it was too good to be true, but inquired anyway. She got photos of the ATVs and a convincing story why they were so cheap. The seller also offered to handle the transaction securely through the "Google Checkout," a clearing house for vehicle sales between private parties. The buyer went to the website supplied by the seller that provided instructions for using "Google Checkout." The instructions included making the $2800 payment through Western Union, then faxing the receipt to "Google Checkout." Once the buyer had made this payment, the seller demanded another $1500 to ship the ATVs. The buyer refused saying he would pick up the ATVs personally. Then the seller refused and told her the ATVs were already in the hands of the shipper. The buyer attempted to verify through "Google Checkout," but was unable find transaction details.

The investigator found the buyer had been "spoofed" with a bogus website screen images from "Google Checkout" modified to misdirect the victim. The modified site tells the buyer to make payments via a wire service, like "Western Union," which generally provides the suspect immediate access to a cash payout, difficult to trace. The authentic "Google Checkout" never uses a third party to handle the money. The ATV sales scam involving "Google Checkout" is widespread around the United States.

Telephone fraud - An 82-year-old man from Black Canyon City got a call from a "police officer" named "Jim Pearson" representing an agency in New Mexico. The victim was told his daughter was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a traffic stop and found to contain marijuana, traced to the Philippines. The "officer" said Philippine police want to extradite his daughter, unless she could post a $1,900 bond. A woman then took the phone impersonating his daughter, including the use of her true name. The victim went to Western Union and wired the money as instructed. He then called his daughter's number and found out she was safe at her home located out of state. Realizing he had been scammed, he contacted Western Union immediately and was able to get the money transfer stopped.

The victim in this case is lucky for acting quickly to stop payment. In the majority of these cases, the money is transferred, picked up quickly by suspects, and nearly impossible to trace.

Many times, suspects use social media to identify targets. The suspects develop a family profile that is used to convince victims that circumstances are authentic while creating a false sense of urgency.

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