By far, most of the questions I receive about crimes I cover, are about scams. So many people receive emails, phone calls and letters offering them money, claiming they've won prizes or explaining some deal that sounds a little too good to be true. People are becoming much more savvy, but, plenty of them still get taken by these parasites.
A lot of victims don't report it to the police or tell even their family members because they're embarrassed. I tell them, they did nothing to be embarrassed about, it's easy to get taken by a pro and that's what these con artists are. They're very good at what they do. They come across nice, caring and sincere. After all, their livelihood depends on it.
What always gets me is the people who fall for the scams are people who are in the middle of a financial crisis of some sort. I interviewed a woman whose grandbaby needed an operation and they desperately wanted to believe the letter about a check waiting for them was true. They borrowed money to pay the "fee" and of course, were worse off than before. There are many, many stories just like this one. It's not greedy people, it's people in need that most often get hurt by scams.
Oklahoma is a prime location for scam artists because we are so willing to help someone in need, even a total stranger. We want to believe everyone is like us, but, unfortunately, that is not true.
There is a way to be a good person and a good citizen without being taken advantage of. First, never ever give money to someone who approaches you in a parking lot, no matter how sad their story. Give money to churches or charities set up to help those folks, but, don't open your purse or wallet and hand it to a stranger.
Second, never give money to anyone who calls you over the phone. If whatever they're pitching, sounds good, hang up, go find their address in the phone book and mail them a check.
Third, beware of anyone who offers you more than the asking price for something you're selling. Don't cash their check and send them the overage (even if they promise you a generous cut). Their check will bounce and you'll be stuck settling the full amount with the bank. Also, don't cash a check someone sends you in the mail, no matter what story comes with it. It'll only lead to heartache.
The frustrating thing is these letters, checks and offers look and sound so legitimate. So, if you get one and you're just not sure, email it or mail it to me and I'll research it for you.
The only way we're going to get rid of these scammers, especially those from Canada and Nigeria, is if they stop succeeding in getting money for their efforts. Let's put them out of business once and for all!