Fraud And Scams Continue To Be Issues For Coronadans - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Fraud And Scams Continue To Be Issues For Coronadans

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Posted: Friday, June 28, 2019 3:53 pm

First, the good news. Coronado is the safest community in San Diego County to live. According to the ARJIS Crime Statistics for the period of February 2019 through and including April 2019, Coronado had a total of three violent crimes, including two strong arm robberies and one aggravated assault. Carlsbad, which finished in second place, had 12 times the number of violent crimes over the same period.

Similar relative totals are reflected in property crimes, with Coronado having a total of 70 over the same three month time frame. Forty-three of the 70 property crimes are thefts totaling less than $400, the vast majority of which are stolen bicycles.

The bad news is fraud and scams of various types are very much a concern to local authorities. Last week Coronado Police Chief Chuck Kaye and Detective Kovahn Vlach provided some examples of recent scams in Coronado and how to protect yourself from them.

“We had some identity theft folks staying in a local hotel recently,” Vlach said. “They had been involved in mail theft in the Encinitas Coastal area. The couple used several counterfeit checks to rent a hotel and other services in January 2019 and they ran up a $3,700 bill. The hotel folks were aware their checks didn’t clear, and they called the cops. We went out there, investigated the allegations and found contraband check blanks, laptop computers, a printer, license plates and stolen mail from Encinitas, Cardiff and Del Mar. We worked with postal inspectors to identify the stolen mail.”

Chief Kaye added, “People perpetuating fraud, this isn’t their first time. They know the limits so they can stay within misdemeanor limits. They do their homework and are seasoned criminals. Some big things we deal with a lot are mail theft, cyber theft and text message scams.” Vlach said, “It’s easier for people to scam the elderly. They call pretending to be their grandson, church pastor, or co-worker.”

Vlach described a specific example of a local E-mail case. “A Coronado non-profit has a board of directors that manages it and somehow the board president’s E-mail contact list was compromised. The scammer pretended to be the president of the board and he was one character off in his E-mail address. He used an ‘I’ instead of an ‘L.’ He used the group E-mail to fish saying he was dealing with a hospital issue and needed money for a gift for his granddaughter. The Board was pretty tight, and people got him an Apple Gift Card. That in itself was probably a red flag. He did Round One and the people didn’t communicate with each other. The person scamming them will push it until you catch them. Then they’ll go back a second time. Clerks at the drugstores in Coronado are well-versed in this scam. If they get a large number of gift cards, say $600, they’ll go to the police. One of the things that makes it difficult for us, is a lot of these people have done this hundreds of times and you are not the only person they fish for that day. They use a proxy server and they can bounce an internet signal all over, from out of state or from overseas. It only costs $10 a year to get a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The statute of limitations on this kind of felony is three years.”

And texts can provide a similar platform for scammers, as Vlach explained. “One person received a phony text from a church pastor who said he needed to get some money. The victim wasn’t familiar with the phone number, but still bought gift cards and sent them to the scammer until they were advised it was a scam. In all honesty, when it comes to phone calls, I can spoof any phone number, call you and pretend to be Pizza Hut.”

The grandparent scam, where the caller says their grandchild was arrested for a DUI and needs help with money for bail, has also been making the rounds for a while. Vlach said, “They practice and have the time to perfect their art. They target the elderly and they are banking on the fact that grandparents can’t recognize their voice over the phone. Anytime some asks for a gift card or a wire transfer, that’s a huge red flag.”

“Ten or 15 years ago, it was narcotics,” Kaye said of the challenges law enforcement faces. “Now it’s as much identity theft and sex trafficking. Now any theft below $1,000 is a misdemeanor. We used to have the ability to charge someone with a felony for property taken over $400. Prop 47 created a big change in our ability to arrest people. The main property crime in Coronado is stolen bicycles. Cops do a great job in Coronado, with tight response times and we do a great job catching people looking for crimes of opportunity to commit. Still, I would like to see less property crime.”

The most frequent form of scam in Coronado currently was described by Vlach. “Theft out of vehicles that turns into fraud and ID theft cases are the most common. People are very trusting here in Coronado and we have a very low crime rate compared to the rest of the county. If you leave your car door unlocked in the driveway, people can walk by doing door checks. On a good day they find a purse, credit card, license registration or a driver’s license. Anything they can get to, to pretend they are you, is a success for them. Sometimes people doing the theft aren’t the ones using the stolen IDs. They are selling the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to some else. As was the case at the hotel with the stolen mail, just being in possession of that stuff is a crime. Using the information is committing a felony.”

From a presentation prepared by the Coronado Police Department, here are some tips to prevent scams being committed against you:

Remember-if it sounds too good to be true or suspicious, it probably is.

Common scams affect everyone including businesses, the elderly, immigrants and highly educated people.

Information gathering for common scams can be achieved through social media public records.

Common scams can be done over the Internet via phishing E-mails, Pop-Ups, Dating Fraud and Property Rentals.

Ways to identify scams include the E-mail may contain numerous grammar and spelling errors. And check to see if the E-mail says you are being charged for something you never purchased.

Ways to identify possible scams include: The IRS, Government Agencies and Financial Institutions will never solicit money by E-mail, they will never solicit money by phone, and they will never have you wire money or a payment through Western Union or a third party.

Regarding incoming phone calls, ask for a callback phone number, that allows you to control the call.

Legitimate payments will never be made with anything other than U.S. currency. Be aware of scammers asking for iTunes or Green Dot gift cards, Gift Certificates or providing money now for a promise of more money later.

Never click on a link in an E-mail to verify authenticity; make contact with the named entity by phone or independently through their verified website; hang up and independently call the institution or agency.

If you lose money or property, contact the Coronado Police at 619-522-7350. Have any receipts, wire transfers or bank statements available, as well as copies of any E-mails that were exchanged.

If you believe fraud has resulted in identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.IdentityTheft.gov.

Remember that scams affect everyone. Don’t be embarrassed if it happens to you.

Vlach said that he and Officer Ryan Brennan are both available to visit local community organizations, service clubs and HOAs to make a presentation on scams and fraud. Vlach said, “We love to get that message out.”

For more information regarding scams or to set up a presentation, Vlach can be reached by phone at 619-522-6450 or by E-mail at kvlach@coronado.ca.us.

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