Scam artists work very hard. So hard that at some point the question must be asked: Wouldn’t they make more money in legitimate pursuits?
The answer, of course, is no.
Western Union recently closed for two weeks all of its affiliates in St. James Parish in Jamaica, which includes the resort city of Montego Bay. They needed a break to take another look at the tidal wave of scam-derived funds that are flooding into the country.
St. James is a center of lottery-based scams, like the one that recently nearly snared a Sequim couple.
This summer in Sequim, Pamela Rademacher-Southwick’s husband Dewey got a phone call at home and was told he had won “millions.” He was told he needed to go to his bank, withdraw $499 and leave it by the front door at 8 a.m. He was told that he had won a car, and to keep that information from his wife so he could surprise her.
Fortunately, Rademacher-Southwick’s husband didn’t keep it from her and she quickly recognized the hoax.
“If you win something, you win it,” she said. “You don’t have to pay for it.”
The scam had Rademacher-Southwick so concerned she asked neighbors to call the police if anyone showed up at her door early in the morning.
Rademacher-Southwick answered the phone when the scammer called the next day and she questioned the caller’s credentials.
“He said, ‘I’m doing the will of God,’” Rademacher-Southwick said.
“I was very upset.”
The caller gave as his company name something like “American Sweepstakes and Promotions,” a name similar to a number of fraudulent lotteries and sweepstakes under investigation by consumer groups and state attorneys general nationwide.
The scam sounded legitimate, Rademacher-Southwick said, because the caller gave a “federal claim number,” had an official-sounding company name, claimed to be “insured by Lloyd’s of London” and was represented by someone claiming sergeant status in a military branch.
The calls persisted for about two weeks, Rademacher-Southwick said, as the scammers told her that her family had won $250 million, but the company needed $3,750 for a wire-transfer fee.
When Rademacher-Southwick said her family didn’t have that kind of money readily available, the caller reportedly asked, “When will you have the money?”
Rademacher-Southwick said she’s concerned for other Sequim community members who may be susceptible to similar scams.
Extortion from abroad
A recent attempted scam of Sequim’s Anne Olson was perhaps even more chilling.
She received an e-mail with the subject line: “Don’t ignore this e-mail.”
The writer, who identified himself as Don Elio Amato, said he was a hired killer who had received a contract to assassinate Olson.
He wrote, “I have been paid to assassinate you, I have every reason to carry out my mission because I have been paid for it but I decided to give you a chance, your life and that of your family from the endless pain.”
“Amato” said he had been paid $80,000 for the assassination.
He’s apparently making a pretty good living: “I have killed about 40 business men and woman within the past two months.”
As always, Olson was warned against telling anyone of the plot: “For your Own Good, you must keep this to yourself, BECAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO IS AGAINST YOU.
“MY Eyes are on you, so don’t try anything stupid OR involved the F.B.I. OR POLICE on this, because I will have known OPTIONS but to kill you.”
Amato then left a private e-mail saying he would provide more information on how Olson could save herself.
“When you get it, it’s just a shock,” Olson said. “You think, what? And then reality sets in. You realize it isn’t true, it’s a scam.”
Olson contacted the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, who sent her to IC3.gov, a website where scams should be reported.
She hasn’t heard back from the website’s administrators, but fortunately she hasn’t heard from the scammer, either.
The Sequim Police Department has some advice for anyone who believes they may be the subject of a possible scam artist: drop by the station or give them a call and have it checked out. Reach the Sequim Police at 683-7227.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.