MALHEUR COUNTY — Scammers have used so many ways to defraud people over the years, and despite national, regional and local attention to the various scams, people are still falling victim to these financial predators.
Some scams are ongoing, such as the scammers who allege they are with a local utility company and demand immediate payment (usually by having the victim load money on a non-traceable gift card).
Other ongoing scams include bogus checks, and according to Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe, the frequency of those have been picking up in Malheur County.
In these scams what typically happens is an innocent person gets duped while trying to sell the item, sometimes done online through sites such as Craigslist.
“They’ll see an ad for something for $1,000, and they’ll send a check for $2,500 and ask you to cash it and then send extra money back to them,” the sheriff said.
These fraudulent checks don’t always get detected before they are cashed, but in a recent case in Vale, Wolfe said, “fortunately, the bank did not cash the check.”
“If people are sending money over the amount of the asking price, it’s a scam, and what’s going to happen is you’re going to be out all that money,” he said.
He reminded people to be cautious, as although it’s not normal to send a check over the amount, “we’re starting to see those crop up.”
In addition, a man from Huntington recently reported a scam to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office after he was duped out of nearly $1,000.
In this case, he responded to an email in which a person was offering to wrap his car with advertisements, and pay him to drive around with them.
After responding to the email, the Huntington man received a package with a bunch of legitimate looking advertising material with a check. In this case, the victim was able to deposit the check and withdraw part of the money to send it to someone, only to find out days later that the check was fraudulent.
Other ways people are being frauded is through cell phones and U.S. Sen Ron Wyden this week is among those pressing the Federal Communications Commission to take action to protect consumers and help victims understand their recourse options.
“Consumer protection is a core responsibility of the FCC,” Wyden wrote the FCC in a letter signed by eight colleagues. “While we recognize that consumers can take steps to better protect themselves from this fraud by securing their cell phone account with a pin number through their wireless provider or freezing their credit reports at the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange, consumers cannot protect themselves from dangers they do not know about and these measures are not foolproof.”
The letter noted that in 2018, there were 680,000 reported victims of cell phone fraud — a 78% increase from 2017.