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Federal Trade Commission should crack down on scammers

Federal Trade Commission should crack down on scammers
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Last month I received a call from a friend of long standing in Las Vegas. He indicated that he was in distress; his friend had been in an automobile accident and, to his surprise, drugs were found in the backseat of his friend’s car. The legal aide representative who contacted him said his buddy was being held in an overnight cell before a judge ruled on this matter the following day. In order to secure this hearing, a bail bond had to be posted.

The legal aide suggested that my friend secure $4,000 in Best Buy gift cards and reveal the numbers on the cards as soon as possible. He complied.

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I can already hear voices in the balcony groaning and shouting caveat emptor or let the buyer beware. We should all be vigilant about potential scams, but the thugs who organized this “practice” know something about psychology.  This is not a matter of buying a “lemon” from a car dealer; these appeals go to the essence of compassion.

 

My friend was gulled precisely because he is a good man.

The following day when the supposed case was to be heard, he got a request for three more of these cards because the automobile accident supposedly included injury to a pregnant woman who required hospitalization. At this point his alarm bells rang and he called me for assistance.

Once the Best Buy cards were secured, neither American Express nor Best Buy could do anything about it. My dear friend, hardly a rich man, had lost four thousand dollars he could ill afford to part with.

I called the Las Vegas police department and the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that looks into frauds of this kind for my friend, but as far as I could tell, no action was taken.

I called the number still employed by the so-called legal aide; I used a pseudonym and said my girlfriend had been in an accident and required legal representation. I was asked to hold on while he checked recent car accidents in the area. Sure enough, he got back on the line and told me my girlfriend (who doesn’t exist) had an accident one and half hours earlier and she is being held for arraignment pending a bail payment, a payment best made through a Best Buy gift card.

It turns out this is a well-established fraud. This slick scamming “business” generates billions of dollars a year. Hundreds of grandmas have been told bail payments must be made for granddaughters in trouble. These thieves play on human heart strings.

How did they discover a relationship with someone my friend knows in Las Vegas? Social media and the transfer of data have made the detective work required to secure victims quite simple.

It should be possible for the FTC to trace the pattern of fraud.  They should at least try. This scam and the others that pray on innocent Americans must be brought to an end. The FTC might start with the criminal who called my friend. I have his name and number, and last I knew, that number was still active.

Herbert London is the president of the London Center for Policy Research, which conducts research on the key policy issues of our time: national security, energy, and risk analysis.