Protect yourself from online fraud
By Don Rush
Detective Sgt. Jason Teelander is seeing a little bit of an upswing in area residents being scammed out of their hard-earned money and he’d like to let folks know about it. The Addison Township Substation Commander for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office (OCS)) said most of the fraud comes from social media.
“I don’t want to say we’re getting hammered with these frauds, but we are seeing them more,” he said. “Most are online and through the telephone – though the telephone scams are sort of going by the wayside and people aren’t falling for them as much anymore.”
He said there are four categories related to fraud, confidence scams, automatic teller or credit card fraud, bad checks and identity thefts. In 2021 there were four confidence scams, two automatic teller or credit card frauds, zero bad checks and identity thefts reported – a total of six cases in Addison Township. In 2013, there were 13 total cases, five confidence scams, four automatic teller or credit card frauds, one bad check and three identity thefts reported.
“In general you have to pay attention to your social media,” Teelander said. “The biggest thing that keeps happening is people meeting people online and most of it is confidence schemes or romance scams. The most common scam is when people pose as an American who is overseas who can’t get back home. They have a relative who is close by – in another town who the victim can Google search them and find them and say, ‘oh yeah, he’s a real person. They must be telling the truth.’ They say they need money to get back home to America. They constantly ask for money. First maybe a thousand dollars, then maybe ten thousand. Before you know it, they are a couple hundred grand in the hole. People fall for this quite frequently.”
He told the tale of one local resident who was scammed “out of a significant amount of money.” The scammer said he was an American resident who had kidney cancer and a kidney transplant in the country of Norway. “The hospital was holding his passport until he could get in touch with his granddaughter in Findlay, Ohio. If they can give him $10,000, he can get his passport back from the hospital. The resident is into this for $150,000 and still doesn’t think they’re being scammed. The son thinks it’s a scam.
“The best advice is if you haven’t met someone in person, don’t send them money. They can send all the pictures they want and all the information, but just because it seems real, if you can’t possibly meet them unless you give them money, then it’s probably a scam.”
Another scam is getting investment advice. “It keeps happening. I don’t know why you would take investment advice from someone you don’t know, but it keeps happening. Stay away from any crypto currency of bitcoin investments. The biggest one now here is, they ask you to take money out of your bank account and invest in some sort of crypto currency like bitcoins and then they convert that to a ‘bat’ coin, which isn’t even a legit operation.”
Sometimes, he said, scammers “lockup” your computer by putting a virus on your computer. “Don’t click anything they send or call any phone numbers they provide. Look up the phone numbers on your own – to wherever it is, Microsoft or Apple – call the Geek Squad at Best Buy for god’s sake – anybody except the numbers from the email or whatever links pop up on your computer,” he said. “Don’t click on those links or call those numbers no matter how authentic it looks. Verify everything first. If you don’t know, just delete the email. A legitimate financial institution will contact you if they need to.”
He said the OCSO does have a Computer Crimes Unit which assists local detectives investigating fraud or financial crime cases. If anyone thinks they are the victim of a scam, he said to call the department and file a report. “We’ll take it from there.”
The Addison Township substation phone number is 248-628-2998. The Oxford Township substation number is 248-969-3077.