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Worthington officer educates seniors on frauds and scams

Worthington Police Detective Dave Hoffman (top left) leads a discussion on frauds and scams Thursday at the Center for Active Living in Worthington. Brian Korthals/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Officer Dave Hoffman of the Worthington Police Department visited the Center for Active Living Thursday to spread the word about scams and frauds to local seniors.

“Scams affect everyone, and they happen right here in town,” Hoffman said. “These people will go to great lengths to get your information and to take your money.

“Just in town here, we’ve seen people out from $1,000 to as much as $50,000,” he added.

Hoffman began the presentation by sharing a story of a letter scam that happened to a local resident.

“A resident received a letter saying that if he sent $1,000 he would receive a check for a million dollars, so he sent them the money,” Hoffman said. “It got to the point where we contacted family services to try and stop the man from sending money and he still did it.”

Hoffman credited employees at Hy-Vee and Walmart for trying to stop him from wire transferring money to the scammer.

“When he didn’t listen to employees at Hy-Vee, the man then tried to send the money through the mail, and the postal service got involved.”

Hoffman explained that they were able to find the money, but it went out of the country and it was lost.

“These letters look legitimate. To people who are not trained, they look very real and can easily scam people,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman gave seniors some advice for spotting these scam letters, emails and phone calls.

“I think first if you receive something in the mail, ask yourself, “Did I enter some sort of raffle where I would be winning something or did I do anything that would warrant a letter?” he explained.

A common phone call scam, knows as the “grandparents scam,” was another hot issue that Hoffman discussed.

The grandparent scam is where people receive a phone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild who is in jail and needs money to be bailed out.

“People will get a phone call and someone will say for example, “Hey grandma, this is your grandchild, I need help, can you please send me $2,500 to bail me out?”

Hoffman went on to say that the scammers are looking for you to give them a name so they can use that and feed off of that.

“The best thing you can do is ask a lot of questions. Ask them, “Well, what is my full name?” or something unique, like, “What is your favorite food that I always cook for you?”

“I would say most of the time, if people do that, the scammer will hang up and try and go on to the next person because they don’t like when people ask questions,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said that, with any type of scam, if it stays in the United States it is easier to track and prosecute, but once the money leaves the country it gets difficult.

“If someone wire transfers money through Western Union, a control number is given. Once someone has that control number they can go wherever and cash it; that’s the problem,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman urges people, if they receive a letter, email or phone call, not to be afraid to either bring it into the police department or report it.

“I’d rather look at a letter or email and tell someone either it’s OK or throw it away than get a call about a report of a scam later,” he said.

For more information or how to report a scam, contact the Worthington Police Department at 295-5400.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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