Attorney General Mark Barnett Warns People of Recent Scams
(Pierre) – Attorney General Mark Barnett says that citizens in South Dakota have lost nearly $300,000 in the past few months to scam artists. The first scam is one that has been around for a few years but has once again become very active; it is referred to as the Nigerian Scam. A person posing as a Nigerian attorney or a banking committee member contacts people: often senior citizens, and offers them a lucrative investment opportunity. The Nigerian representative then attempts to convince people to wire money to Nigeria or some other foreign country. An effective technique used by the scam artist is that he will stress the need for confidentiality. This is an attempt to keep the victim from talking to anyone about the alleged investment. Like all scams there is the promise of huge returns on the "investment" or on the "fees and expenses."
Another recent and repeat scam is the Canadian Lottery Scam. People are contacted and told they have won a large sum of money, but in order to collect it they must first send money to cover the fees and expenses. In one recent case, the requested "fees and expenses" were $10,000. Once the initial money is sent, the victim will be contacted and additional "fees and expenses" will be requested. The scam artist basically tries to get more and more out of the victim.
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) has worked with the South Dakota Bankers Association and recently sent out a notice to banks in South Dakota advising them of these scams. Bank employees should be suspicious of large cash withdrawals that are a deviation from a customer’s normal course of business. This cooperative effort resulted in two "saves" almost immediately.
A senior citizen had already sent a large amount of cash to the "Canadian Lottery" and was preparing to send an even larger amount, when an alert bank employee told him of the notice the bank received from the South Dakota Bankers Association. The victim was instructed to contact the DCI, which he did. The incident is under investigation.
In a separate case, a few days later, a senior citizen wanted to withdraw a large sum of cash for a Nigerian investment. The bank employee was aware of the notice sent out about the recent scams and attempted to talk the customer out of sending the money. The customer was still not convinced that the investment was a scam. After the customer spoke with the DCI about the investment, he was convinced that it was a scam.
Barnett said, "One of my missions in life has been to try to educate people so that they do not get bilked out of their savings. There is no free lunch. Companies are not in the business of giving citizens free money. Ask why the outfit chose you for the big windfall or hot investment. If it’s such a hot deal, why aren’t they taking all the profit themselves, instead of offering it to you? Ask for references. Don’t let them rush you into a decision. How can you win a contest you didn’t enter? In about 99.9999% of these cases, if you ask these questions, you won’t get ripped off. And one last word…. we all need to look out for our relatives, friends, and neighbors who are at the stage in life where they might be vulnerable to these buzzards."
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