America is the land of opportunity – everyone knows that. Unfortunately, for a growing number of Americans, it is also the land of swindles, scams, cons and frauds. According to a recent Louis Harris Poll, 9 out of 10 Americans are hit by scammers each year. We are all susceptible to scams. This is the reason for publishing ScamNews, an informative, entertaining newsletter designed to show you how these fraudulent activities are perpetrated on the public. The material we have chosen to use comes from many sources, including the following:
. Real con artists, men and women, who reveal the secrets behind their plans to relieve you of your money and otherassets.
. Criminals in prison. We talk to people behind bars who tell of scams and fraud that led to their prison time. Some of their scams are old, some are as recent as the 6 o’clock news.
. Prosecutors, police, judges and attorneys.
We describe law citings from cases of scammers caught in the act. They give descriptions of the crimes, sentences received, and potential profit as well as potential loss to the victims. The final two sections will come from the readers. Business Scams will be from people who have been encouraged to swindle consumers as part of their job ‘duties’. While many of these practices are borderline legal, the majority are not. As one business owner put it bluntly, “Every dollar out of your pocket is a dollar in mine.” Reader Stories is as the name implies. Material is supplied by the average consumer and/or swindler. We encourage readers who have been victimized by scams and con- artists to write their own stories and submit them. While it probably won’t get you your money back, it may help save someone else from being conned. ScamNews is especially interested in getting stories from people who have committed cons. After all, that is where it begins.
We realize, of course, that not everyone who has pulled off a scam is a career shyster. Some do it out of financial need and it’s a one-time shot, others are inadvertently conned into helping a pro do his thing. These stories are written and edited for our readers’ protection. Names are never used except with the subject’s permission or in cases that have been resolved in the courts.
Doing Business in America Home Improvement
You can’t touch these guys, every thing is legit, yet you might wonder if there “oughtn’t to be a law”.
Cell Talk “The Secrets of My Success” School Money
If anyone gets busted, it won’t be the pro. He gets the dough, the new kid gets the egg on his face.
Plastic to merchandise to paper,— money that is. $5,000 – $10,000 per day without showing a photo ID.
Mice to Know You
Traveling across America seems quite affordable with this seemingly harmless ploy.
Need to be someone else, or anyone other than you? Here’s 2 shots at it, both state issued and ‘valid’.
Really big money and never a complaint from the tenants.
Flea Market Gold Mine
A scam that leaves the victim smiling…at least for for a while.
Money by Canon Bucks by the hopper full. 2 brothers thought a Canon copier could bring them pennies from heaven.
Easy Credit A little work at home enterprise for the husband and wife who want to ‘do’ time together.
Harvesting greenbacks is easier than most think. This type of operation would probably work with almost anything one could sell, especially to senior citizens. It seems the method of operation is bully them, sign them and give them ‘nothing to complain about’.
As a 40-year-old sales representative for a New England wide home improvement firm, I enjoy meeting and working with people. I have been with the company 12 years. We specialize in home additions, garages, vinyl siding, outdoor decks and vinyl replacement windows. My company placed an advertising insert in the Sunday newspapers. The ad was a single page heavy stock paper with a detachable post card.
When a prospective customer mailed in the card, they received a call from a telephone operator in a boiler room. The prospective client is “qualified” by the boiler room employee as to whether the client can pay or owns their own home. Next comes a sales agent who qualifies them as definite buyers by asking questions to determine how much they need the product and the level of their seriousness. The final qualifying question are two, really: does the product meet all their needs, and are they satisfied all their questions have been answered? If the client checks out affirmatively, a sales representative calls at the client’s home. All the answers are right on target. The sales rep stays on top of the client and will do everything to close the deal – even if it means spending the night! We work closely with a bank and can draw up a second mortgage on the client’s home if it’s necessary. All of the members of our office are Notary Publics to speed up the process of the deal.
To me, the questionable part of our business is the way we target the elderly. The older a person is, the more expensive the product. A two-car garage, for example, that would cost most customers $4,200 has brought in as much as $12,000. There is little the buyer can do once the job is completed, even when the neighbors comment on the high cost, since the workmanship is up to par and all the materials are standard. My firm also sells and installs windows we buy for $95. Our minimum price is $500, and I once witnessed a deal when a couple in their 80s paid $1,200 for each window. To me, it was unconscionable. And even at $95, a person would not save enough on heat loss to regain their cost. Am I proud of what I do? Of course not. But it does affords my family a comfortable life.
“The Secrets of My Success”
Note: These stories contain detailed information on how scammers do their thing. Hopefully the detail will show the inner workings of scams and thereby provide information to prevent you from falling victim to any of these ploys. In providing any kind of detailed information there is always a risk of someone using it in ways not intended. Although it is absolutely not the intention of ScamNews for this to happen, it is obviously a possibility. So remember: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION COMES DIRECTLY FROM PRISONERS WHO HAVE LOST THE THING AMERICANS , AND PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, CHERISH MOST… FREEDOM. THEY LOST IT BY A SCAM…
Plastic has been a boone to just about every segment of society as the following attests. This is an ideal example of how easily corruption can and does perpetuate itself in American society. I’m 32, I live in the Boston area, and I’ve been pulling scams as long as I can remember. People ask if I ever had a real job. I don’t think I ever did, except maybe after my first release from juvenile detention. I delivered pizzas. Everyone seems to think scamming is easy money. It really isn’t. A lot of planning and scheming has to go into the scam, otherwise it doesn’t work. Me? I like simplicity. That is why this holiday weekend scam was one of my favorites. It’s quick, it’s easy, it works and it’s extremely profitable. There is a minimal risk because ATM machines have surveillance cameras and voice print recorders. As long as I wear something to hide my face without appearing too conspicuous, I feel I’m relatively safe.
It takes a week to pull off the scam, and my profit is limited only by how many cards I can buy. My prospective target is college-age kids, and I work it in any large city. We did this particular scam over the Memorial Day weekend. In fact, those long three-day weekends are the best time to swindle bank customers. A friend and I knew some college-age yuppies who would rely on us every so often to help them out financially. We asked them to put out the word that we were buying ATM cards and their PINs for $1,000 each. Anyone who helped us get such a card would be paid the Tuesday after Memorial Day. The kids would report their cards were stolen on Saturday of the holiday weekend, meaning it would not be processed by the bank until that Tuesday.
Two kids came across with 20 cards for us the week before the Memorial Day weekend. Beginning on Friday afternoon, we started cashing in on the ATMs. Banks always make sure to load up their machines on weekends, particularly holidays, and we wanted to make sure we got more than our share. Some of the cards permitted withdrawals on unverified funds – we had the college kids find out which ones these were when they secured the cards. All we had to do was put an empty envelope into the machine, claiming we had deposited $1,000 cash, and then start withdrawing. Most of the cards had a $200 a day limit, so we hit all the accounts at least once a day, every day for four days. It was an incredibly successful weekend. Each of us made over $6,000. We paid the kids $500 each, and paid the card owners $100 each. Which brings up the first lesson when you’re getting involved in a scam: never, trust a crook.
Apparently some con men are industrious. This next scheme seems to require the scammer to go to a lot of trouble for a buck. The risk factor on this undertaking is very minimal, and my profit margin is $5,000 to $10,000 per episode. All I need is a friend or associate’s credit card who is willing to wait an hour or a day to report it stolen. How much can a scammer make on this deal?
Around $5,000 per hour or more, while the other party waits to call in the “stolen” credit card. The more creative I am, the and the longer I hold the card, the more I can make. I acquire a recently “stolen” credit card and go to a department store chain. I make a number of purchases such as VCRs, microwaves or stereo equipment in the $300 to $500 range, taking around 15 minutes in each store, and using city shopping areas or malls for my purchases. I have found it possible to make purchases in 15 different stores in a morning or afternoon, for around $7,500. It’s easy to do with practice, and I’ve got plenty of practice. Immediately after receiving a receipt from the credit card purchase, I grab a candy bar or a pack of cigarettes from the rack next to the cashier and pay for the item with cash.
I always use the same cashier and register. I don’t bring any personal ID to any store. If a problem should arise with the card, I make a polite excuse to go to my car to get proper verification – and leave! Once I’m home with my merchandise and receipts, I carefully line the receipts up with each other, laying one over the other and holding them up to a light with the words “Total” on top of each other. Where it says type of purchase, “Cash,” the other will read “Credit Card.” I tear both receipts simultaneously with an irregular pattern. The cash segment fits perfectly on the credit card receipt.
For added insurance, I smear smoked oyster oil or mustard or grease on the receipt. Then crumple it into a ball to make it difficult to read. I have someone else return the unopened product to the store over the next 10-day period to declare that the wrong product was purchased. Then when the return counter takes the receipt, it is simply explained that it was in the trash – and that’s why it is torn and stained. It has been my experience that 9 times out of 10, the cashier won’t even handle the stained receipt. All the cashier will be concerned about is the product ID number, the price and the words “Cash Purchase.”
MICE TO KNOW YOU
This scheme could result in ‘innocents’ being hurt, maimed or dead. Beware the ASPCA! This is an easy, effective way to stay at luxury hotels at absolutely no cost. Before registering at the hotel, I stop at a local pet shop and buy two live mice. Around midnight, I just release the mice in the room. I have a female friend (my “wife” or “fiancee”), call the front desk excitedly, preferably on the verge of hysteria. All the front desk clerk has to hear are the words “rats in the room.” He’ll take care of the rest. I’ve found this scam to be good for a total refund, a possibly free suite, and complimentary dinners and wine. The least I get is a free night in another room.
Genuine ID’s are available for the asking. It seems for some people life is not “be who you are”, but rather “be whoever you want to be”.
#1 This one is so easy, it almost is too simple. The first thing I do is run a want ad in the local newspaper that reads, “WANTED: Men/women who have never had a driver’s license. Ages ?-? Call 555-1212. Needed for research program.” When the calls start coming in, I take down all the vital information such as date of birth, place of birth, height, weight, hair and eye color. I tell the applicant that I will send further information for the procedure to obtain a license.
#2 In my travels across the country I’ve met many people… and for the select group who have similar vitals to me, I’ve even borrowed their identities for a short while. I just send an application to the Motor Vehicle Department in the state where the person lives stating that “I” am going to school (out of state) and that I’ve lost my license. I indicate that I won’t be back in state for another few months and would appreciate them sending me a temporary license until then. There is never any problem and usually there is no picture on the temporary license only a run down of the normal vitals.
Real estate is the American way to wealth. With this formula it seems nearly instant wealth comes on a minimal investment of cash. I’ve found this works best in populated high rent districts. My investment cost is between $5,000 and $10,000, and the profit gain is limited only by my imagination and willingness to work. A female friend and I pretend to be a husband and wife, new to the area. I rent a car, get traveler’s checks and appropriate clothing and, of course, cash. I have found the risk factors to be minimal. It takes approximately two weeks to pull off the scam once I’ve paid the initial rental agreement costs. I contact a realty firm that rents or leases homes and an appointment is set up to look at a house, preferably without neighbors who rent from the same realtors.
I’m always careful to arrive at the appointment with a rental car that has no identifying stickers. I try to appear diligent in my search for a perfect rental. I act ‘ normal’, do a little bickering about price, and choose carefully. I talk about possible options to buy and ask plenty of questions. After I choose my rental, I pay the first and last months rent, plus the deposit using cash or non-traceable traveler’s checks. Once I have secured my rental home, I go to the phone company and pay for immediate service.
My next step after getting a phone number is to go to the classified advertising office of the leading newspaper in the city. I advertise “my” home without giving an address, using my new phone number for contact purposes. If the home cost me $1,500 a month (first, last and deposit), I have put up $4,500. I list the home for $1,000 a month, or a total cost to new renters of $3,000 for the first, last and deposit. I wait in the rental unit during the calling hours listed in the ad, making appointments for the best potential renters.
When the customers arrive, they will see an empty luxury home, available for rent in an area where most homes rent for $500 higher. I collect the first, last and deposit from each of my customers, giving them a move-in date of around 10 days. If I get 10 customers, I have collected $30,000, for a profit of nearly $26,000. People who have used the scam report up to 27 customers in a week. I’ve always done well with this one.
FLEA MARKET GOLD MINE
The treasure hunter becomes the ‘treasured’ prey in this hit and run scam. The moral here is ‘seller’ beware. This one is a bit tricky, but once it’s perfected, the risk factor is minimal and I’ve easily earned thousands of dollars over a two to four-week period. My total investment less than $500. And the only props I need are phony business cards, a checking account, a newspaper ad, flea market space and a fake ID. My initial step is to print 250 business cards reading: ‘FINE JEWELRY AND GOLD INC. We pay the most for jewelry and precious metals.” I open a personal checking account under a fictitious name in an out-of-state bank. I do it in a state with a low rate of fraud since they aren’t hyper about scam artists and will generally accept any business thrown their way.
I search out a rural flea market that does a high volume business, with a large customer base and rent space for a Sunday. I then run an ad in the flea market section of the local newspaper, offering to pay the highest prices for jewelry and metals. On Sunday I buy up all the precious metals and jewelry I can get. By the time the bank opens for business Monday morning, I’m in another state with my treasure.
Money by Canon
Money seems to be as close as the nearest copying shop. Although this could be one answer to somebody’s budget deficit, it could also help get rid of all ones responsibilities for awhile. Uncle Sam is more than agreeable to providing accommodations for all those with ambitions in ‘printing without permission’, as these two brothers found out.
On May 15, 1990, Mark John Lamere bought a Canon color laser copier and had it delivered to a space he had rented in Minneapolis, Mn. During the next several days, he made color photo copies of U.S. currency $20 and $100 bills. He tried to pass one of the fake $100 bills on May 19th at the Perimeter, a night club in Minneapolis.
The bill immediately was suspected as counterfeit by the bartend-er. He called the club manager who after examining the bill notified the police. Police placed Mark John Lamere under arrest and questioned him at Hennepin County Jail. Officers confiscated 10 identical counterfeit bills from him. Lamere claimed he didn’t know the bills were fake, and said he got them the previous evening from a man who bought a Rolex watch from him. Later that same night, Mark John Lamere called his brother, Jean-Paul Lamere, from jail and asked him to remove a portfolio that contained other counterfeit money from his apartment. J
eanPaul Lamere picked up the portfolio and stored it in a girl friend’s attic. Some four months later, the portfolio was reported to police. Law enforcement officers, acting on the report, seized $12,420 in counterfeit $20 and $100 bills with both fronts and backs; $15,560 in bills with fronts only; and $11,620 in bills with backs only, for a total of $39,600 in fake currency. Because of the discovery of the fake money in the attic, U.S. Secret Service agents executed a search warrant on the business space rented by Mark John Lamere and were able to recover the Canon color laser copier.
Laboratory tests performed on the seized copier and the bills found a link between the two pieces of evidence. Mark John and Jean-Paul were charged with counterfeiting US currency in a 7 count indictment. They both plead guilty to 1 count and were sentenced to 12 months in prison with 2 years supervised release.
Business was booming for this ambitious couple when… how does that saying go now… is it the postman or the US Postal Inspector ‘always rings twice’? In 1987, Marshall Peters came up with a scheme to defraud citizens by soliciting funds for “pre-approved” credit cards from individuals with poor credit histories. A year later he and his wife, Linda, began doing business, calling their company “Credit America”. The couple operated out of their home, using a mailing list they bought from a mailing list brokerage firm. The list was called “Credit Problem Names,” and yielded the names and addresses of some 40,000 individuals with credit difficulties. According to authorities, the Peters sent letters of solicitation to some 30,000 of the individuals on the list. The letters read in part: “CONGRATULATIONS!
You have been pre-approved to receive your very own CREDIT AMERICA MasterCard…We have a MasterCard reserved for you right now, but you have to complete the enclosed pre-approved CREDIT AMERICA application, and mail it back to us with your annual $35.00 membership fee…you cannot be turned down, because you are already pre-approved. There is NO CATCH! “CREDIT AMERICA has made special arrangements for group approval with VISA and MasterCard…Your membership is backed by a 100% MONEY BACK SATISFACTION GUARANTEE,…You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. To receive your CREDIT AMERICA MasterCard with NO CREDIT CHECK and NO SECURITY DEPOSIT, your preapproved application and $35.00 annual membership fee must be received by CREDIT AMERICA within the next 30 days.” The letter was signed by Preston Roberts, vice president of New Accounts. It displayed the VISA and MasterCard logos.
There was, of course, no Preston Roberts, nor had a special arrangement been made with MasterCard or VISA. And bank cards had not been pre-approved. In fact, Credit America was not authorized to use MasterCard or VISA logos. The only Credit America address was a rented mailbox, and Preston Roberts was a fictitious name created by Marshall Peters. The Credit America phone number listed on the solicitations was connected to an answering machine. According to authorities, Peters intended the solicitation to cause victims to send in $35.00 to join Credit America in return for the promise of pre-approved credit cards. Some 5,500 persons responded to the solicitations.
Each sent in $35.00 for the “credit card.” While some of the targeted individuals received a postcard acknowledging their request or a membership handbook from Credit America, none ever got a bank card. The Peters profited by more than $200,000 from the scheme before U.S. Postal Inspectors moved in on their home in October 1988, seizing some 3,750 opened envelopes containing credit card applications.
The search also produced 150 unopened letters of complaint. Some 700 opened complaint letters were also confiscated, along with several handwritten notes recording card applicants complaints left on the answering machine. In May 1990, a federal grand jury indicted the Peters. Marshall and Linda Peters were charged with 14 counts of mail fraud. Marshall was also charged with a single count of using a fictitious name in the alleged swindle. The U.S. government filed a redacted indictment that lifted four counts of mail fraud from the indictment. The couple entered innocent pleas and a jury trial started Oct. 16, 1990.
Marshall Peters was convicted of 10 counts of mail fraud and one count of using a fictitious name to carry out his scheme to defraud. Linda Peters was convicted of five counts of mail fraud. Five other counts against her were dropped.
Reader’s Response Business Scams Reader’s Stories Note: The above categories will be reserved for our readers and any others who desire to share their stories with us. Sharing knowledge about scams and frauds is the only effective way to avoid victimization from them. Through your contributions, ScamNews will be able to offer up to date information on the most current frauds, swindles and confidence schemes being perpetrated today. We hope that you have found this first and expanded issue of ScamNews both entertaining and informative. Everyone is susceptible in the scamming game, and by being aware of how they work you may avoid being the next victim. Since most victims of scam are left with little if any recourse to regain their money or assets, prevention seems the only solution.