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Carl Kanowsky: Another scam to watch out for

It’s the Law

Posted: March 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

There doesn’t seem to be an end to these scams. Maybe they’ve always been around, and it’s just that I’m now hearing about them. But I don’t think so.

The Internet and email seem like undeniably delicious tools for the con artist.  The criminal doesn’t even have to meet or talk with the victim. All they have to do is make contact via email.

I will begin and end this story with the same warning: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. In other words, if something drops in your lap like a gift from God, be suspicious. 

Every day, I get dozens of emails about how I’ve won lotteries I never entered, or how a relative I’ve never heard of has died and left me millions of dollars, or how some official in a war-torn African country has selected me out of the millions of other attorneys in the world to hold huge chunks of cash.

These are obvious schemes geared toward tapping into my inner sense of greed.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to resist the temptations. 

But there’s a new conspiracy that really ticks me off. These larcenous scoundrels have set their sights on college students.

This is how the scam works. Kids off at college are contacted in some fashion. Maybe they get a phishing email or they see something on the Web. Now comes the part that’s too good to be true.

We’re aware of two come-ons. In one scenario, the student is asked if they have a car. If so, then they’re asked if they want to make an extra $500 a week for doing virtually nothing. Well, who wouldn’t? So the kid replies, “Of course,” and the game is then on.

The students are told that they are being contacted by a marketing group who has clients who want to target college students. The brilliant marketing scheme? In exchange for $500 a week, the student allows the marketing company to entirely “wrap” his or her car with advertisements for one customer or another.

And, in addition to earning the money, the marketing company will also do any necessary bodywork (at no charge to the student), so the car is pristine. Irresistible, right?

Once the student agrees, he or she is sent by FedEx a so-called cashier’s check for $4,000. This is how we learned about the scam.

The sender is identified on the envelope as Kanowsky & Associates with our correct address. Interestingly enough, the telephone number listed isn’t ours, but belongs to a local investment adviser. Let me assure you — we had nothing to do with this.

Anyway, the student is told to deposit the check and send the person who sent the email (and not our office) proof of deposit. Then, the student is told to keep $1,000 for two weeks pay up front and send the balance to the company who supposedly is going to wrap the car.

The other scenario usually involves female students. They are told that someone new is moving to the area, and they will need babysitting.

Are they interested in earning thousands of dollars watching someone else’s kids? Once the girl says she wants to babysit, she’s sent $4,000, again some for her and the rest (a majority) for some other purpose, such as housing for the new residents. As above, a cashier’s check (or at least something that looks like one) is delivered to the student.

As you’ve likely already guessed, the cashier’s check is bogus. One good indication is that the bank on the check is identified only by name, not also by address. The student deposits the check, sends out the portion of the deposit to the allegedly independent third party and then learns about a month later that the check was no good.

Now, the student not only does not have the $1,000, he or she also owes their bank for the money sent to the third party, who now cannot be found.

As I said above, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you have any doubts about money you’ve received, go to the Sheriff’s Department or your bank. Do not follow the instructions of the person who sent you the money. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’ll find out that the whole thing is a scam, and thankfully, because you were cautious, you’ve just avoided becoming another victim.

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by e-mail at cjk@kanowskylaw.com. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

 

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