Monett Police have received recent reports of active scams targeting Monett residents. Police Lieutenant Greg Brandsma said the latest reports operate similarly to fraud efforts active when he began police work in 1977.
One of the scams targeting local residents accompanies a notification that the recipient is a "winner" of a sweepstakes or lottery involving a large sum of money. The notification comes by phone, through the postal service mail or electronic e-mail personally addressing the citizen.
Brandsma indicated the originator of the correspondence many time is from a foreign country such as Nigeria, Jamaica or Canada. Prosecution is difficult because the perpetrators reside outside of the local jurisdiction.
"What appears to be 'too good to be true' is," Brandsma said. "The recipient's suspicion should be triggered when there is a request that they provide money or specific bank information to the sender prior to the release of the winnings."
The perpetrators are attempting to get personal banking information that can be used to make an unauthorized withdrawal from the victim's account. Brandsma advised never giving banking information to strangers, especially over the phone.
A financial document such as a check or money order may also be sent to a citizen with instructions from the sender to cash the item at the local bank. Recipients are instructed to retain a portion of the money and then send the remainder of the cashed item to a specific address, often in another country.
"The sender guarantees the recipient of a big win if they participate," Brandsma said. "The sender encourages the recipient to participate in this exchange hoping the recipient cashes the financial instrument and sends the money, anticipating a larger jackpot to follow. Often the financial document received appears genuine, but it is found to be counterfeit, complicating the citizen's involvement in cashing the item at their bank, causing a police investigation which follows."
In one current case, the victim was sent a real check. The victim cautiously took the check to her banker, who advised her not to cash it. The perpetrator thus would not get access to the victim's bank account numbers.
Brandsma said the public has been conditioned through contest promotions to think an offer of a big win might be legitimate. He urged extreme caution in dealing with any offer involving a big pay-off.
"Scams of this nature have been perpetrated on U.S. citizens for decades," Brandsma said. "Upon receiving any correspondence like this, the recipient is encouraged to contract the Police Department prior to agreeing or acting on any of the term suggested by the sender."