Is This Fraud?

Updated on November 11, 2019
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

Source

My Experience

On Tuesday, November 5, 2019, I received a phone call that rocked my world. It was the Burleigh County Sheriff's Office telling me that I failed to appear for Federal Grand Jury Duty. They said that I had received a letter indicating that I was to appear for jury duty on Monday, November 4, 2019, and asked why I did not appear.

I told them that I had not received a letter. They said that there were several others who had not received it either, and that they needed to change the way that people receive the letters. They told me that because I did not appear, I now had two misdemeanor warrants I needed to clear with them.

I questioned them about the details and they proceeded to tell me that I needed to come to the sheriff's office immediately and bring affidavits with me in order to clear my name. I was then given instructions to obtain "green-dot money-packs" for the two misdemeanors. They gave me the numbers that were to be associated with these money-packs.

I was to pay for the money-packs with cash and put $250 in each one. They said that they have to do things this way now, as so many people have been victims of fraud by giving their credit card number or checking account number.

Once I came to the courthouse and the misdemeanors were cleared, I would be given a cashier's check to reimburse me for my time, mileage, and the money that I had put on the money-packs. I was asked my checkpoint mileage each place I went to make sure that they had my mileage properly for the reimbursement.

The caller insisted that I remain on the telephone, that I could not hang up or do anything to jeopardize coming directly to the sheriff's office. I was not to tell anyone about what was happening, that if anyone asked, I was to pretend that nothing was amiss, and that I was going about my normal everyday activities.

I told him that I did not have sufficient funds to pay with cash, and he assured me that it didn't matter how I obtained the money, that it just needed to be done with cash. I had my adult daughter with disabilities with me in the car, and rather than taking her home as originally planned, I kept her with me. I didn't want her to be overly concerned for my welfare, not knowing the outcome of what was happening.

I obtained the money from my bank account. I was told to go to a specific store for the money pack, and the caller said that he had contacted them ahead of time to make sure that they had them in stock. Each time I went in, I was not to turn off my vehicle, as that would end the call and jeopardize my compliance.

How I Realized What Was Happening

Once I obtained the money-packs, he wanted me to scratch off the silver cover on the numbers of the money packs and give it to him. I accused him of being a fraud and told him that I wouldn't give him the money until I saw his ID. He then proceeded to tell me that law enforcement would be at my side shortly and they would arrest me and take me to jail. At that moment I saw in my mind's eye, me being hauled off to jail, and my daughter with disabilities going off the deep end.

I made a choice that $500 was nothing to me, that if this was legitimate, I would get the money back. If it was not, I would be out $500. I gave him the numbers. He kept me on the phone for the next hour, indicating that the numbers were being processed so that my misdemeanors would be released.

Once I arrived at the courthouse, I was to wait in my car while they continued with the processing, then I was assured that they would bring me inside the courthouse where I would be able to complete the paperwork, get my money back, and walk away.

The fellow came on the phone periodically to make sure that I was still there and to assure me that I would come in soon. It never happened. The call ended. At that point, I went to the sheriff's office and they said that I had to report it to the Bismarck City Police. I did so. They sent an officer out to talk to me. There is nothing that can be done. I fell for a scam.

Know the Warning Signs

All during the phone call, I was questioning myself and the caller, "Is this fraud?" Once the incident was over, and I was studying over in my mind what had happened, I knew the warning signs.

1. Using personal information to gain your trust

The caller knew my name, my address, the fact that I had received a letter recently summoning me for jury duty, and that I had not served. He knew the layout of the city in relationship to my location, and where businesses were located. He led me to believe that this was a legitimate phone call.

2. Promising compensation

All throughout the call, I was promised that I would be compensated for my time (I was asked for the mileage on my vehicle at each stop), my trouble (I was promised that I could complete paperwork to file a grievance), my missed work (I was told I would be given an excuse indicating that I had served jury duty), and the money put on the money-packs (I was told that I would receive a cashiers check to give the money back that was not used to clear my record).

3. Restricting your communications with others

The caller indicated that I needed to remain on the telephone during the entire time between when I received the call and arrived at the Sheriff's office. I was told repeatedly not to hang up the telephone or to talk to anyone about what was happening. I felt as if I was being held at gunpoint.

4. Using lower quality technology

Several times during the call, I had to have the caller repeat what he was saying because the call would break up and I couldn't hear the instructions given. He claimed that he needed to get another head set that worked better. I was afraid that I would do something wrong, and loose my credibility and legal standing as an honest citizen.

5. Threatening my personal well-being

I was threatened with immediate arrest if I did not comply with the directives given. I was given no recourse but to comply or else law enforcement would be at my side and take me into custody.

6. Using your lack of knowledge against you

Not knowing what "green-dot money-packs" were and how they functioned, I was duped into thinking that the money would not be released until I arrived at the Sheriff's office and gave the receipts to the person there. I was told to scrape the silver strip off the money-pack so that the caller could check to see that I had put the proper amount of money on it, all the while claiming that the money would not be transferred until I arrived at the office.

7. Challenging your honesty and integrity

Several times during the call, I used the same tactics that were used on me, telling him that I didn't believe him, that I felt this was a fraud, and that I needed some kind of ID to show that he was actually who he claimed I was. He challenged me for being uncooperative, and not being honest with him. I felt I had to prove him wrong.

8. Keeping you questioning what is happening

All throughout the call, I was questioning was was happening, not believing it was legitimate, and wondering how I could get out of it. I felt trapped, that there was no other recourse than to comply so that I could get the event over with and go on with my life.

9. Using fear tactics to get you to act

Threats of arrest, threats that my name would not be cleared, threats that I had to give him the information off the money-packs in order for him to finish processing my information so that everything would be ready when I came into the Sheriff's office and completed the necessary to paperwork.

10. Stalling for time

Once I arrived at the courthouse, he kept stalling me for time, saying that everything was still processing, saying that I needed to wait before coming in to complete the paperwork. While I was waiting, he would come on the line periodically and ask how I was doing.

How to React to a Fraudulent Call

Once the line went dead while I was waiting, I knew I had been the victim of fraud. I went to the sheriff's office and saw the phone number on the outside of the door to report a crime. I called and since I was in city limits, they told me to call the police.

Once the police came, I related the incident. They filed a report, but nothing could be done to recover the funds. They told me of others who had similar experiences, given their bank account or credit card information, and lost thousands.

Since the event, I have thought many times about what happened, there are several things I wish I had done.

Hang up the phone

All it would have taken for it to stop the whole thing was for me to hang up the phone. I had done it many times in the past when I thought I was receiving a fraudulent call. If it was really the Sheriff's office, they would have called me back.

Turn off the car

I was in the car for the majority of the phone call and it was coming through my blue tooth speakers in the car. Turning off the car would have disconnected the phone call and given me time to think.

As for a call-back number

If I would have asked for a call back number, and then hung up, I could have called the Sheriff's department number locally to see if this was a legitimate event. I could have stopped the intimidation long enough to think clearly.

Allow the consequences to happen

If I had allowed them to go through with the arrest rather than giving them money, I would have found out that it was a scam.

Follow your gut instinct

I knew in my gut that it was a scam but I wanted to believe that it was real, that this wasn't happening to me, and that society was not this cruel.

Have you been a victim of fraud?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Denise W Anderson

    Comments

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      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks, Devika. I appreciate the compliment. I certainly don't feel that I am brave. It was a harrowing experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I hope that others can learn from what I went through.I appreciate your comments.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        6 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        You are a brave person and to share your experience with us makes you a stronger individual. Thank you for taking the time and sharing your valuable tips in such situations.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks for your kindness, Lorna. You are right, it happens all too often. I hope that someone else can be spared the grief I went through as a result of it. I appreciate your comments.

      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        6 months ago

        What a horrible experience Denise and unfortunately one we see all too often these days. These people operate through fear and their own knowledge of the law. I am so sorry this happened to you and I hope you are recovering. I am convinced that people who do this type of thing will only reap what they sow. You have drawn awareness through this article and this will help other people to be more aware.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks Audrey. I am hoping that by raising awareness, others can avoid the same fate. I appreciate your kindness.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks, Dora. It was a tough thing to go through and you are right, it can happen to anyone. I just have to keep telling myself that. With my anxiety, the fear is what got to me. I appreciate your kind comments.

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        6 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        The days of being able to trust strangers are gone. I'm glad to read this article and I'm proud of you for wanting to do the right thing. I'm so very sorry that you had to go through this.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        6 months ago from The Caribbean

        Angry that these people get away with such fraud. Sorry that you lost your money. It could happen to anyone of us if we get fearful enough. Thank you for sharing the lessons that you learned. You're helping the rest of us to be more aware.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        I hope that, too, Mike. For those of us who want what is just and good in the world, that would be the happy ending. Unfortunately, it rarely happens. These types of scams seem to go in phases. When people become aware of one kind, scammers come up with another, and the cycle continues. I appreciate your comments.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks, Eric. It is the only way I can get past it and move on with my life. Now that I have written this article, I can smile again!

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks, Bill. You are right that it is becoming much more common, especially with the free reign scammers seem to have with technology that enables them to use other people's phone numbers and information.

      • Readmikenow profile image

        Readmikenow 

        6 months ago

        This is a frustrating situation. You are a person who wanted to do the right thing and some wretched person took advantage of it. I hope they catch the person who did this and put them in jail for a long time.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        That is a good point about others learning from it. Good for you. So immediately because of your good loving heart something good came out of bad.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        6 months ago from Olympia, WA

        This happens all the time. Seems like once a week the local news station is talking about a similar scam. I guess what I'm saying is you are in good company and it could happen to anyone who wants to do his or her civic duty and who is trusting by nature.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        6 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks for your empathy, Eric. It was a traumatic experience. As I look back on it, there are many things that were red flags. At the time, I was not thinking clearly, however. I felt like I was being held at gunpoint and that my life was on the line. I hope and pray that others will learn from my experience and avoid a similar fate. Thanks for your comments!

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        For me this is extremely interesting. Can you even imagine that in a previous time I defended folks like this and generally got them probation. The horror and cost to folks is enough to make one physically sick.

        I found an interesting notion. These guys work harder for the fraud than they would have at a reasonable job.

        I have not concluded about nature vs. nurture. But their sickness needs to be researched further. I have also not concluded if it is a possession by the devil deal.

        So sorry for your ordeal.

        (I am pretty sure Federal Marshall's do federal issues and they do not have misdemeanors)

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