Police encourage residents to call them with concerns



A?worker knocked at a Chillicothe woman’s door and asked her if she would like some white rock spread on her driveway.


A?worker knocked at a Chillicothe woman’s door and asked her if she would like some white rock spread on her driveway.

He told her he had finished a job down the street and had extra materials.

Needing the work done, she asked the man how much it would cost.

He told her he would just spread it first and then let her know the minimal cost.

The company charged her a whopping $841 for what should have cost $100, Chillicothe Police Chief Steve Maurer said.

Chillicothe Police Department Sgt. Dean Baize and officer Nick Bridges did the legwork on the complaint, and learned that the Peoria company was already known as “not reputable” by the
Better Business Bureau. The workers also made their rounds in the cities of Peoria, East Peoria, Washington and more.

The problem, Maurer said, was the woman needed the work done, and she trusted the worker to do it.

She was embarrassed about the situation, so she did not want to contact a relative.

Luckily, the CPD recovered her money.

“A?lot of people are so embarrassed about it — like they can’t handle their business,” said Maurer.

Situations like the woman’s occur because the worker tells the potential customer there is not time for him or her to contact references, said resident Ken Karman, who is assisting friends and clients of his CPA business with problems such as this.

Many types of fraud exist for home repairs — roofing, seal coating driveways, tree work and cleaning services — and scams of winning the lottery, helping out a grandchild in jail, “verifying” bank accounts or credit cards and more.

Help, Grandma!
One popular scam right now, Bridges said, is a grandchild needs bond money after being charged with DUI in Canada or Atlanta.

Usually the caller says, “Hello, Grandma,” Bridges said.

Grandma then says, “Is that you, Brian, Scotty?”

Now having a name for a grandchild, the scammer says it is Brian, and he was in Atlanta, got a DUI, now is in jail and needs money to bond out.

The scammer then says, “Don’t call Mom or Dad. I’m too embarrassed.”

The senior citizen then rushes off to wire the money to help the grandson.

One resident received a call like that. While on the way to the bank with her son, they decided to stop and call another grandson to see if the incident was true. The other grandson saw the “jailed” grandson a half hour before the grandmother’s call, and he was nowhere near Atlanta.

Baize suggests the best way for residents to protect themselves is to write down all the information and then call the grandchild in question and ask how much money is needed to wire.

You’ve won!
Another scheme is a resident has won money through the lottery.
The catch is, handling fees need to be wired to the company in order to release the funds.
It is, of course, a scam.
Maurer said to tell them to take the handling fees out of the winnings.

The origination point
Baize said that these calls originate from boiler rooms of 60 to 80 phones in an empty warehouse.
The phone numbers are untraceable, as they are routed and rerouted.

Some seniors are afraid that the callers live nearby and will come find them when they do not do what they want.

The chance of that, Baize said, is nil.

In these boiler rooms, on one side may be the grandchild scam, and on the other side, the scammers work to “verify” information.

Due to an account being short of funds, they call to get a name, date of birth and bank account number, which then gives them access to a resident’s accounts.

Susceptible seniors
Years ago, when residents received a phone call, it was usually important.

Now there are telemarketers and scammers.

Karman pointed out: he never believed in caller?ID, but when he got married, his wife insisted upon it.

“Very few seniors have that,” Karman said. “They’re not used to it.”

Baize said the scammers are intent on getting the money out of the seniors by berating, masterminding, embarrassing or whatever else it takes.

He offered advice to the seniors.

“Hang up the phone if you feel threatened. If it’s too good to be true, hang up.”

How to help
Baize suggests residents sit down with their relatives, or a neighbor, and explain these scams.

“If just one person talks to one senior citizen that they know, this would be eliminated,” said Baize about the issue.

The senior citizen’s fear, he said, is that if they are duped by a scam, they may be put into a nursing home because they “can’t take care of their money.”

The playing field is not even, Baize said.

“They’re all trying to be fair and honest,” he said about the seniors.

Their scammers are anything but.

“These people are slick,” said Baize. “If you are taken, especially call the police department. We want to help you.”

With the economy as it is, the future does not look bright for honest citizens.

“Things are just going to get worse.”

About the time the police have figured out a scam, the scammers are on to the next one.

“Some of the scams are just ingenious. There’s no other way to put it.”

Karman and Baize both said they are thinking about meeting a couple times a year with seniors about these types of scams. Not only will the seniors learn about who may call them, but Baize also said the police will hear of the newest scams.

Scams range in dollar amounts — some used to be $10,000 to $25,000.

But now, most are smaller scores.

Because Wal-Mart is in every community, many scammers tell seniors to wire the money from Western Union at Wal-Mart.

Due to a series of clamp downs and questions asked, scams now seem to be under $2,500, Karman said.

Baize also credits Kroger in Chillicothe. The store also has Western Union there.

On one occasion, an employee called police after gathering enough information about a senior attempting to wire money for a scam.

In the last four months, Baize estimates at least 30 cases of fraud in town.

But, like sexual assault crimes, for every one that is reported, another five exist.

“We want to help. We want to do anything possible.”

Also see: Police warn of home repair fraud