Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This New Year - Don't be a Victim

I won a Mercedes.

To be specific I won a white Mercedes E-Class convertible. Now that’s pretty awesome; to just win a $65,000 sporty car right out of the blue. This win was especially miraculous since I didn’t enter any contests.

There is no Mercedes in my driveway. There is no Mercedes because the whole thing was a carefully constructed telephone scam designed to separate me from my money. The catch was that I needed to pay the shipping, handling, and taxes on my new ride. The nice man on the phone told me I should do that by going down to the local corner store, purchasing some prepaid visa cards, and then calling the contest coordinator and giving him those visa card numbers.

I knew it was a scam from the moment I picked up the phone, and for nearly two hours I went back and forth with the scam artist. I told him I’d have to get a ride to the store. Then I called him and told him I couldn’t get a ride, and I’d have to walk. Then I called him and told him that they didn’t have any prepaid visa cards at the corner store, so I’d have to walk to the next store. Then I called him and told him that I didn’t have enough money to by the cards because I left my wallet at home. This went on until finally the scammer realized that I was just sitting in my recliner and calling him every five minutes to keep him from having the time to call and scam someone else.

I never got my Mercedes.

I did get called some names that I had never heard before. As your city manager I’ve been called a lot of names; so the new ones were a refreshing change of pace.

I’m not the only person at city hall to get a scammer’s call. Your public safety director got a call from a person who stated that he works for the IRS and Chief Morse was told he needed to pay his back taxes over the phone. When he refused to make a pyment the wannabe IRS agent told him the local cops would come to his house and arrest him. I think Chief Morse told the fake IRS agent something along of the lines of “fat chance of that happening” and hung up.

Which is exactly what you should do. Hang up. According the Federal Trade Commission, thousands of people are victims of these telephone scams each year and they lose anything from a few dollars to their life savings to these telephone hacks. These people will call you and tell you you have won a great prize, or threaten you with legal action form the IRS, or encourage you to invest in some scheme or buy something from them and in the end you lose your money and they disappear.

Those individuals who are trying to scam you are becoming more and more skilled at separating innocent people from their money, and one of the latest scams involves people calling you at home and pretending to be someone who works for the city. Here’s how it works: Your phone rings and the person calling you tells you that they work for the City of Clinton and they are calling you because you didn’t pay your electric utility bill. If you don’t give them a credit card number over the phone, they will have your power cut off. When you give them your credit card number, they use it to buy things using your money.

The City of Clinton will never ever call you and ask for a credit card number or ask you to go out and buy prepaid cards and give us those numbers. Never. We will not do that. If you get a phone call from us asking you to give us your credit card number, bank account number, or social security number then it is a scam. Hang up.

Furthermore, you should know that city work trucks have logos on them or have license tags that have “MG”, which stands for “Municipal Government”, on them. City utility employees wear uniforms and all city employees – every single one of us – are issued an official City government identification card which lists our name, position, department, and has our picture on it. If a city employee comes to your house, and you don’t feel comfortable, ask for their supervisor’s telephone number and call their supervisor or call the Department of Public Safety to verify their employment or to come out and meet with you.

All of your one hundred and seven city employees want to provide you with quality services and they want you to feel safe and we do not want to see you scammed, especially by someone pretending to be one of us. This New Year resolve not to let yourself be had by a scam artist.