Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The "Money Gram Scam" Ann , Rich Coleman, Pittsfield Twp. DPS/ Det. Don Lupi Saline PD

Identity theft, scams of all types are impacting residents and businesses by email, phone and snail mail. The Federal Trade Commission (Federal Trade Commission) has posted great information and resources for consumers and law enforcement. There is one report that I recommend all Crime Prevention Practitioner pull and review "The Sentential" published by the FTC  a yearly report of "reported" Identity Theft and Fraud,  FTC 2010 Sentinel Consumer Report * there are a number of unreported incidents due to pride and embarrassment that they fell for the scam.

The state of Michigan had 33,991 reported incidents of identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints, (Fraud #27,11, ID Theft # 6,880)  You can also assit miltary members and families in your commuity by accessing  FTC- Sentinel resource for military families .

Here is a September 19th, 2011, article published at Ann on "The Money Gram Scam":

The often-repeated saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it is” is gaining new traction in the 21st century as scam artists continue to prey on people looking to make an easy buck.

Sometimes it’s a fake lottery, and a random email announces you won. Sometimes it’s a person offering to pay you thousands of dollars more than your asking price for an item on Craigslist. Sometimes it’s a job as a mystery shopper who is sent thousands of dollars and then told to wire it using Western Union or MoneyGram.
But, in nearly all of those cases, the person on the other computer is running a scam.
Officials in the Saline Police Department and Pittsfield Township Public Safety Department both have 1-inch-thick stacks of paper on their desk, all of them cases of well-meaning people scammed by someone they’ve never met. Pittsfield Township community coordinator Rich Coleman said people across all walks of life have fallen victim to these types of scams, simply because they didn’t read the fine print.
“If it’s too good to be true, it is, particularly as it relates to these types of MoneyGram scams,” Coleman said. “If you get someone telling you, ‘We’re going to send you a check, you keep the portion you’re entitle to, but send us the balance,’ it’s not good. It’s not good at all.”
The scams are reported fairly frequently — about 3 or 4 come into the Saline Police Department every week. However, officials estimate twice that number aren’t being reported because the victims are simply too embarrassed to say anything about it once they realize they’ve been had.
Saline police Det. Don Lupi said the common denominators in almost all of these types of scams are fraudulent checks and money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram. He said the unwitting participants in these scams are usually sent a fraudulent check that looks very real and is usually between $1,000 and $5,000.
In one case Saline police investigated this month, the recipient was told he was going to be a mystery shopper. The 73-year-old man would receive a money transfer from a woman in Montana with instructions to buy about $30 of products from Walmart and to wire the remainder of the check, which was generally between $250 and $1,000, to Nigeria and other African countries.
The man did this about 6 times before he was contacted by a Western Union representative telling him he might be involved in money laundering. The Saline man stopped using Western Union after that, but the Montana woman began sending him money orders. He took the money orders to the Saline Post Office and was told they were fraudulent — he never cashed them and stopped all of the transactions.
Lupi said the Saline man didn’t lose any money out of the deal, but was instead sending money from fraudulent checks along to someone overseas. When those checks were discovered to be fraudulent, the woman in Montana would then be responsible for the money.
Both the Saline man and Montana woman would not be charged with a crime because there was no specific intent, Lupi said; the man from Saline and the woman from Montana didn’t know they were committing a crime.
“Because our country doesn’t have a streamlined check verification system, it falls back on the person cashing it,” Lupi said. “The woman from Montana is out the money and someone in Nigeria has the money.”
With the crimes being started, and ended, in foreign countries, there’s a large amount of difficulty in fully investigating these types of scams, Lupi said.
“With most police departments being small and local, we don’t have the resources of manpower to investigate into another country,” Lupi said. “With the mass volume of these that come into all police agencies, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) doesn’t have the resources to check them out.”
These types of scams leave people like Andy Gammo, the owner of Village Party Store in Saline, in a tough place.
As a Western Union outlet, Gammo’s shop was the place the 73-year-old Saline man was receiving and sending the money transfers at and, though the transactions were a part of a scam, Gammo was simply doing his business.
Gammo said he’s usually on the look for someone suspicious who might be receiving $3,000 and sending $2,400 of it to someone else. He said he’s been made aware of scams in the past and has helped stop them.
“If we don’t catch it, Western Union catches it, but with transactions like that we catch it all the time,” Gammo said.
“We have to be alert all the time, I mean, we’re in this business so we have to be alert.”
There are tell-tale signs a scam is taking place, Coleman said.
One of the main signs is a contact telling you to use immediate service on Money Gram or Western Union, as opposed to next-day service. By sending it immediately, there’s no way the sender can get the money back, Coleman said. While it might seem like a cliché, broken English or worse-than-usual grammar is also usually a sign of a scammer, he said.
If someone is sent a check and believes it might be a fraud, Coleman and Lupi both encouraged people to simply ask for help, either from police or from officials at a bank. There’s also a website Coleman said is a great resource, even if it’s seemingly obviously named —
There are often specific details as well, such as exactly where to go to transfer the money, break downs of exactly how the money should be spent and what will be received and other instructions make the scams seem legitimate. However, scammers usually give themselves away by sending money before any action is taken.
“There are legitimate companies that do this. They’ll give you money after you do it, not before,” Coleman said.
There are other scams to look out for as well, including fake jobs on Craigslist, an Internet classifieds site.
In July, 17-year-old Saline woman was sent a check for $3,490 after she accepted a nanny job she found on Craigslist. She was told to deduct $300 for herself and buy toys for the children with the rest, but was then told to send $2,898 to a Vermont man through Western Union, according to a police report. After she sent the money, the Saline girl never heard back from the original woman who had made contact with her.
In 2008, another Saline man accepted a “job” as a mystery shopper and bought $60 in products from various national corporations and was told to evaluate the experience, as a first assignment. His second assignment was to evaluate either Western Union or Money Gram by transferring $1,997.72 and, in a separate transaction, $178.98. The man was paid $250 for his job, but would be out of the money once the checks he transferred were determined to be fraudulent.
“You’re still responsible for the money, and the bank will deduct it out of your account if the check is fraudulent,” Lupi said.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Identity Theft & Fraud- Data breaches, Is your Smartphone at risk?

"Data Breaches" to national/local businesses, banks and online threats, and Smartphones are on the rise. Everyday we read about another major businesses such as Citi Bank, Sony, Google's Gmail, Epsilon, RSA Security, SecurID, Lockheed Martin all being illegal accessed by "hacktivist" (CU Info Security 6/10) and putting personal information at risk for fraud.

Federal and State laws are being enacted to assure that consumers are notified of a possible data breach in a timely fashion and encouraging consumers to check their credit reports and monitor suspicious activity on credit cards or calls about purchases being made and shipped  to unfamiliar addresses.

In December of  2010, the Kaspersky Lab Security News Service posted a report called "Enterprise Mobile Security Survey",(  that is an eye opener about the impact on businesses that are using Smartphones for E-commerce decisions and the lack of security software on the devices.

All sectors of business, schools, and organizations are creating "acceptable use policies -AUP" in order to make employees/users aware of how to protect their Smartphones, avoid visiting non-approved websites that may have malware or trojans that can access their systems and turning off features when not in use.
Identity Theft and Fraud interview with WXYZ Channel 7, Detroit MI.-
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Monday, July 11, 2011

National Night Out 2011, It's still an important community event!

The National Association of Town Watch started the National Night Out (NNO) event in the early 90's. This events intent/purpose is to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, it is yet a relevant and important message for our communities. 

CPAM embraced  NNO with it's member agencies and members of retail, law enforcement and the private sector. Grants to assist with NNO were also budgeted for members to apply for to support their efforts and law enforcement joined to created a community wide event that "all agencies could treat as one event". It was great to plan and pull off the events with everyones help.

During this planning time every agency had a crime prevention officer or C.O.P's officer involved in their community and this was the perfect group to help bring the community out to participate and join in the effort to increase the "eyes and ears" block-by-block.

Budget constraints and department downsizing has changed how many agencies participate in the NNO event. Many agencies can't create over time so those that can participate help plan with their respective communities.

The NATW ( has great resources for those that have a budget but you can also do this event with a limited budget and volunteers, the most important aspect has always been, meeting with residents, presenting a message that "we're here for you when needed" , and providing resources from non-profits and services to the community.

R. Coleman, Leg. Rep. CPAM

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dept.of Homeland Security- 4 ways to safeguard mobile devices

6/21/11, The Dept. of Homeland Security has provided a number of great resources that I'll share in this blog. Mobile devices are replacing desktops and laptops and the more we use them the "hactivist" have found ways to get access to your personal information. See the attached article for tips on protecting your mobile device. R. Coleman, CPAM

4 Ways to Safeguard Mobile Devices
DHS: Cybercriminals Increasingly Target Mobile Devices
Information Security Media Group
June 20, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security has issued four tips to keep smartphone users safe from cybercriminals. In its blog, DHS offers this advice:
  1. Access the Internet over a secure network: Only browse the web through your service provider's network such as 3G or a secure Wi-Fi network.
  2. Be suspicious of unknown links or requests sent through email or text message: Do not click on unknown links or answer strange questions sent to your mobile device, regardless of who the sender appears to be.
  3. Download only trusted applications: Download "apps" from trusted sources or marketplaces that have positive reviews and feedback.
  4. Be vigilant about online security: Keep anti-virus and malware software up to date, use varying and strong passwords, and never provide your personal or financial information without knowing who's asking and why they need it.
DHS says nearly half of Americans are expected to own a mobile device by year's end. Citing experts, DHS says smartphones and mobile devices will surpass computers as the primary target for cybercrime within three years.
"If a hacker can gain access to a mobile device, they can easily find e-mail addresses, stored passwords, banking information, social media accounts and phone numbers, allowing them to steal your information, your money and even your identity," DHS says, as part of its Stop Think Connect cybersecurity campaign.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cyber Bullying- MI House of Reps proposed 2011 legislation

6/20, CPAM personnel/School personnel, SRO's and parents. Michigan's elected officials are working to address the issues related to traditional and now cyber bullying incidents. Due to the increase of bullying being reported online and by text messages. These new laws being proposed will require that schools report to law enforcement and the parents  of the individual involved with bullying and the victim be notified. If anyone needs an example of a community presentation send me a note and I'll forward what we've done for our local schools here in Pittsfield Twp. and several national resources that I'll highlight in future posts.
R. Coleman, CPAM

Harassment /Stalking
         Michigan Penal Code # 750.411h

         #750.441s Posting messages through electronic medium

         House Bill #4251-Create government cyber bully PSA and maintain an awareness campaign.

         House Bill #4252- Mandate school and law enforcement “cyberbully” reporting.
         If a law enforcement officer or agency gets a report of “cyber- bullying” of a minor, it    must report this to the parents and school (s) of both the bully and the victim.
         If the school official becomes aware of cyberbullying they must report to all parties.

June: Internet Safety Month 2011

6/20, More resources on Internet safety. R. Coleman, CPAM


With the school year ending, kids will be spending more time online. In fact, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, children and teens aged 8-18 spend an average of 7 and a half hours each day with electronic devices – where they may be vulnerable to cyber bulling, cyber predators, and other criminal activity.

The Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign encourages students, parents, and teachers to remain vigilant about their daily Internet use and offers the following advice to parents to keep their children safe online:

Stop: Before letting children use the Internet, set clear guidelines about which sites they are allowed to visit and what they should do if they see something questionable.

Think: Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs that may indicate your child is using the Internet unsafely.

Connect: Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken steps to safeguard yourself and your family.



The Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign is happy to announce that the Federal Communications Commission has joined the Cyber Coalition.

At an event on May 16, 2011, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the partnership. Read more about the event here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CPAM- The place to network and learn from your peers

I joined CPAM in 1989, and after graduating from the Detroit Police Departments "Crime Prevention Training School" I was ready to bring the knowledge and excitement of putting in place creating an atmosphere for neighborhood, apartment, business and faith community watch programs. Working with other CPAM personnel it was important not to re-invent the wheel.

We used information from the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC- , National Missing and Exploited, The National Sheriff's Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, C.P.T.E.D, Community Oriented Policing, and many more as tools to build on our knowledge base to help our program.

If you are in law enforcement coordinating crime prevention, C.O.P.s officer or a civilian as I am  working for an agency this organization is one that you'll benefit from. The conferences, training, networking is such a valuable tool in doing your job but most of all your community benefiting from.

The 2011 CPAM Conference is being planned and members and those thinking of joining can help sustain and continue to build on the maintaining this great organization by being an officers and serving on the board of directors. Please visit the website for details on joininging as well as applying to be on the board.

6/16/11, Rich Coleman, Leg. L. CPAM

6/15/11~ Internet Safety- Fraud and Scams

Greetings to CPAM members and those interested in crime prevention and or a victim of a crime. We'll provide resources and links on where to get to address the topics discussed in the blog. I've been a member of CPAM since 1989 and served in a variety of roles but the most important in "networking" and providing resources to fellow members and communities. I work for the Pittsfield Twp. Department of Public Safety and coordinate our crime prevention efforts with our Community Patrol Officers who are now members of CPAM.

We have been addressing National Data Privacy ( issues with our local Cyber Citizenship group. You can find more details on ways to protect your personal information.

A great resource is can be found at "Stay Safe Online"-,  and the "Stop, Think, Connect campaign.

In future posts I'll provide information on resources for Cyber Bullying and current proposed changes to Michigan laws, resources, examples of what schools and communities are doing to address this issue. We have also put our presentations for elementary and middle/high school in a PDF file. So if anyone is interested in getting copies of our efforts we'll forward.

Rich Coleman, Leg. Liaison, CPAM