New scam at play in West St. Paul

courtesy of West St. Paul Police Department • This letter was recently found in West St. Paul mailboxes, but isn’t an actual raffle residents have won — it’s a scam. Laura Vaughan from the West St. Paul Police Department said she wants people to know that if they didn’t enter a raffle, letters such as this one are likely a scam and should be ignored.

On Jan. 26, a new scam was brought to the attention of the West St. Paul Police Department. 

Laura Vaughan, a crime prevention specialist, said the department got a call from a resident saying someone was walking around, putting letters regarding a raffle in mailboxes, a scam tactic that Vaughan said is now common.

That same day, a post was made on the department’s Facebook page to make residents aware of the scam.

“If we find some new scam going around, we’re trying to get word out immediately to our residents,” Vaughan said.

This new scam uses a raffle as a ploy. Vaughan said a lot of times, individuals will receive a letter or email saying that they won something through a raffle or lottery. All the individual needs to do to claim the prize is to send money to a third party.

“That’s usually telling you it’s a scam. You don’t send someone money to win money,” Vaughan said. 


Other scams

Even though people are aware of scams, the department still gets plenty phone calls about them, Vaughan said.

She said scammers are using any method they can to set people up, from emails to phone calls and letters. 

A famous scam, she said, involves getting a phone call saying that something happened with a bank account, and the bank needs a person to call back to verify the password. This can lead to the scammer having information about the bank account.

Oftentimes, scammers will use the name of a charity that is similar to a real charity, and seek “donations” for the fake organization. Vaughan said a scammer will change the name up just enough to make it sound like a legitimate organization.

Seniors get hit by phone calls late at night with a grandparent scam. This is a scam were someone says their grandchild is stuck in a different country or in jail and needs money. With this scam, Vaughan said seniors should take a minute and think about it. With the elderly, Vaughan said they are often worried their grandchildren are in trouble, but they should take a deep breath — a red flag is the caller not wanting their supposed parents to know. 

“If their kids are really in trouble, then why aren’t they calling their parents?" Vaughan said, adding the senior should hang up and call the parents to check on the grandchild.

When it comes to who gets scammed, Vaughan said it can happen to everyone, and while seniors are more likely to be targeted, there are plenty of scams targeted at younger generations, too.

“A lot of scams for younger people that you don’t hear about are the romance scams, because people are embarrassed to say anything,” Vaughan said. In such a scheme, a scammer exploits romantic feelings for monetary gain.

Another scam is someone saying they are from the police department asking for donations. Vaughan said the department never asks for money, and people often get caught up in it because they want to help out their local department.

If the scam is by phone, Vaughan said you should hang up immediately and not give out any personal information that can be used against you. If it’s by email, don’t open it or click any links.

If someone is telling you there is something wrong with your bank account, talk to someone at the bank, Vaughan said. Chances are, you’ll be told it’s a scam.

For those who think they may have fallen for a scam, Vaughan said they should call the police right away so it can be documented. If possible, they should also try to stop any payments. If personal information for a bank account or credit card is given, call and cancel it all as soon as possible.

If you’re asked to send cash via money order, or by gift card, that should raise a red flag, Vaughan said. Once that money has been sent, it can’t be tracked. 


— Hannah Burlingame

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