Police warn public of phone scam

By Tony Parra

Money predators are at it again, according to Portales Police Captain Lonnie Berry, as the police department has received complaints that an organization is calling with claims of Canadian lottery winnings.
Berry said there were two people who called in complaining they were receiving calls asking them to send $1,000 or more to claim their prize money.
“Anytime you are told to send money to claim your prize, it’s not a legitimate situation,” Berry said. “It’s a scam.”
In another incident a woman was told to send a $3,000 money transfer to Canada at Wal-Mart, but employees from the store alerted the Portales Police Department, according to Berry. Berry said they (police officers) had a tough time convincing her it was a scam.
“We were able to get help from Sen. Stuart Ingle in convincing her it was a scam,” Berry said. “He talked to her and was able to give us a hand. He kept her from throwing away her money.”
Wal-Mart Assistant Manager Soji Banjo said it was first brought to his attention by his Customer Service Manager, Michael Erwin. He said the lady entered the store on Monday morning and wanted to transfer money to Canada, but that she didn’t have enough money for the transfer.
“He brought it to my attention after she had came the first time and I told him to get me if she came back,” Banjo said. “She came back with $2,800, but decided she still didn’t have enough. We were worried because she was an elderly lady looking to transfer a lot of money out of the country. Legally we couldn’t stop her.”
The scam isn’t new to the area — a similar event happened to a few Portales residents in late February. In February, Berry said seven Portales residents called to complain about the same type of scam.
Berry said he’s seen residents lose a great deal of money through these scams and that it’s tough to pinpoint where the perpetrators are located.
“I’ve seen people lose from $30,000 to $40,000 in past instances,” Berry said. “People who do the scams move very regularly. They make these calls from a boiler room, make money and move out.”
Berry said a pattern he has seen with the scams is that the scam artists tell people to transfer the money to someone who has the same last name as the would-be victims. He said it’s to keep from drawing attention to the money transfers.
“I was glad he (Erwin) brought it to my attention, because someone was trying to take advantage of her,” Banjo said.
People who receive calls from Canadian scam artists should report the call to Canadian Phone Busters at 1-888-495-8501.