Local Police Chiefs Warn of Scams

East Franklin Township Police Chief William Evans holds two checks he received in the mail. The checks were scams.

Scams come in a variety of ways including phone calls and internet emails. However, the Chief of Police in East Franklin Township was targeted through the U.S. Postal Service by a company asking his involvement in a secret shopper program.

“These were letters that supposedly came from KSS International. I received both of these certified letters, same day. I picked them up at the post office.”

Both envelopes contained the same letter and checks that were each written in the amount of $2,150 each. Each check was drawn on the same bank, with the same account number, and the same check number. The only difference was the color of the check.

“The letter tells me to go to my local Wal-Mart store and purchase $1,800 of phone cards. I was then to contact them and give them the information on the cards. Then they would let me keep the balance of $300 for my efforts.  They want this done within three days.”

Evans said scams such as this will require you to deposit the check. Most banks will give you access to the funds the following day, but he said that is before the check actually clears the out-of-state bank. When the check is denied at the out-of-state bank, your local bank will then take the funds out of your checking account. However, by then, you have spent $1,800 of the funds and there is no way to get a refund on the phone cards because you scratched off the number to get the PIN on each card.

“An out of state check takes seven to ten days to clear. If you are foolish enough to fall for this, you are losing $1,800 of your hard-earned money or retirement.”

Both overnight envelopes were actually mailed from Wheat Ridge Colorado 80033, although they had two different return addresses. One return address was from Intellishop Survey Inc. of Waldorf, Maryland and the other one was from KSS International Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts.

There is actually a company with the name Intelli-Shop from Perrysburg, Ohio. The company has posted a disclaimer on their website about this scam.

“Please be aware that persons misrepresenting themselves as employees of IntelliShop have been attempting to recruit individuals to participate in a fraudulent mystery shopping program,” the website states. “ The scams vary slightly, but the overarching structure is the same, wherein a packet is mailed to participants in this “program”.  Included in the packet is a check, which is to be deposited into the shoppers/victims account.  A portion of the funds is to be wired to a specific account, through a specific company/money wiring service, and the remainder is to be retained as compensation for the services rendered.  The check is not real, and will bounce, and the victim will be deprived of the funds wired to the criminals perpetrating this scam.”

Evans said that his advice to the public: “If something sounds too good to be true, it IS too good to be true.”

Kittanning Borough Police Chief Bruce Mathews said his department handles about a dozen calls per month from residents about scams. (KP File Photo)

Kittanning Borough Police Chief Bruce Mathews agreed with Evans.

“The biggest thing with a scam, regardless what form it takes, is to be diligent. Think about what they are asking. Is this a company you have done business with in the past? The brochures they send out are very carefully crafted. Even a person who doesn’t believe they will be scammed, should look up the company and find out information about them. Many times they use information that you would recognize as part of the scam. You never use the number that’s on the brochure. Look up the real number. Inquire at that corporate office. The smallest piece of information they get, they can turn around and use against you.”

Evans gave suggestions for  anyone receiving mysterious unsolicited packages.

“First, call your local police department. You can also check with your bank so they are aware this is going on so they could tell their fraud department to watch for it. If they are doing it here, they are doing it all over western Pennsylvania.”

Evans said he has run into various scams in the past, and it generally is with older individuals.

“My father-in-law, who just passed away, was very upset with me. He had received a letter that said he won the Publisher’s Clearing House and he needed to send $900 to pay for the taxes. I told him that isn’t how it works. The government will take out the taxes. He was very adamant and disappointed in me because I wouldn’t write  him a check to send to them.”

Evans said he also received a text message yesterday asking if he had cashed the check yet. Evans, who has a FaceBook account, had unknowingly put his cell phone number on his social media account, and believes that is where they harvested the information for the scam.

Mathews said that people are taken advantage of because they want to believe their lucky break has come.

“Everybody has that moment when they think they got that lucky break, and they could really use the money at this time. So they want to believe it is true. They will even talk themselves into believing it is real. They ignore their gut feeling that something is wrong because they want to believe it. Some will even cash the check, but then realize a week later that it is a scam.”

Mathews said his officers take as many as a dozen calls per month for scam incidents.

Both chiefs urged citizens to call their local police department or call 9-1-1 if they feel they have been the target of a scam.