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By Clay Connolly
Special to the Pioneer
Each morning cases come across my desk for review and I see the ways that folks are victimized by others seeking money through a variety of sources. The gamut ranges from charitable contributions to classified ads and the result is that frequently folks are getting diminished or zero return on their money. This, in a time when money is universally tight. If we are to avoid these scams, we need to get smarter about our responses.
An old friend once told me “Never gamble more money than you can afford to throw away.” I took his words to heart but I would extend the same adage to “distance purchases”. Those include classified ads, auction sites, direct mail offers or any organization that you can’t see, feel or touch, up close.
Some sites offer guarantees and have reputations to back them up. Ebay is one such site but you have to be registered and purchase through their site. The reality is that folks sometimes send money in response to an offer and then decide they were scammed. They then bring their complaint to the Law Enforcement. The truth about law enforcement includes the following:
We have a limited budget and a requirement to be stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars. We will not likely pursue an investigation that will cost several thousand dollars to bring justice to a $500 loss.
Assuming we successfully identify and prosecute a suspect, there is a small likelihood that the criminal justice system will recover your loss by restitution.
Most “distance scams” happen in a jurisdiction outside of ours. Your loss is no less real but our authority to investigate and prosecute may not exist.
In short, law enforcement is your last line of defense. Your first line of defense should be your good judgment! If you lack this, make friends with someone who does. If you don’t make friends easily, call the police. Explain your “opportunity” or your intended response to a classified ad and let us review the possibilities. Remember that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. We won’t endorse anything but we might save you a little heartache and loss.