The City of Madison has been experiencing increased levels of fraudulent activity over the past weeks, according to a Madison Police Department report, giving reason for heightened awareness in the community.
Four instances of fraud, including telephone fraud, internet fraud and counterfeit bills, have been reported since the end of January according to MPD statements, specifying two of the reported frauds were scams perpetrated online.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the MPD has consistently reported fraud cases at a steady rate over the last few years; however, cases have increased recently.
The first occurred Jan. 27 when a 27-year-old man said he received a message on his computer instructing him to send $300 to the Department of Justice. According to the statement, MPD informed the man the Department of Justice does not collect fines in that manner.
According to an MPD report, the most recent online scam occurred Jan. 29 when a man was searching online for a loan. He contacted two phone numbers and used the website american-payday-loan.com, the statement said.
The scam artists requested the man to wire the “loan company” a $204 “loan origination fee” before they direct deposited the $2,000 loan for which he had applied, the report said. When the man never received the loan he contacted the MPD, who said similar loans has occurred on the West Coast, the report said.
Another attempted fraud occurred when two women tried to use a counterfeit $100 dollar bill and shoplift from a store on the 900 block of East Johnson Street Jan. 30, according to an MPD statement. The two women and the man who was accompanying them were arrested for charges, including attempted theft, attempted fraud, resisting, bail jumping and possession of drug paraphernalia, the statement said.
The fake $100 dollar bill was around three-quarters the size of a real $100 dollar bill and the women have attempted to use it at two other Madison area stores, according to the statement.
The fourth case of attempted fraud occurred Jan. 14 when a Madison senior citizen reported to the MPD she had received repeated calls, according to an MPD statement. The callers wanted the woman to send them money in order for her to claim her prize, the statement said.
Although the crimes are not high profile, Verveer said they are fairly common and difficult to control.
“It’s breathtaking that there are so many scammers out there,” Verveer said.
Verveer added MPD is often helpless because cases of fraud are often perpetrated by individuals outside the United States. This means making an arrest nearly impossible when the money is wired outside the country and the phone numbers are outside off the U.S., he added.
“They report the crimes to federal authorities and leave it at that,” he said.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said he has seen incidents of people being scammed through Craigslist and emails, adding it is important for community members to be aware of the signs.
“One of the best ways to prevent fraud is to use common sense,” Resnick said. “If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.”