One of my soapboxes at BBB is that scammers can strike anybody, and none of us is immune. Approached in just the right way, at just the right time, any of us can fall victim to a scam. In my time at BBB, I have seen incredibly well-informed people, including local business leaders, lose money or personal financial information because they did not realize they were being scammed until it was too late.
Fortunately, this story ends happily, but it illustrates that absolutely anyone can become the target of a scammer.
In this case, what happened is that the Governor of Missouri actually received a letter in the mail, saying that he owed a debt to a company he had never heard of, and threatening him with a lawsuit or even potential arrest if he did not pay right away.
This is an extremely common type of scam, by the way. Thousands of people receive letters, email messages, or phone calls with exactly this sort of messaging. The goal is to get some combination of money and personal financial data (which then might be used for additional scams).
Of course, the Governor knew he did not owe the debt and immediately turned the letter over to the state’s Attorney General. With some investigation, it was soon discovered that the sender of the letter was a repeat scammer who had been convicted of a similar crime once before. Today, the person who sent the letter – from Michigan – is facing both criminal and civil charges, once again.
This story is interesting because it involves such a high profile figure and because there is a happy ending, but this sort of situation is incredibly common, and they do not always end happily. People engaged in scams like this are typically making thousands of contacts at a time, knowing that a tiny percentage may fall for it and they can get money and/or personal financial information from them.
Fortunately, the Governor set a perfect example for the rest of us. First, he was aware of his financial situation, knew he could not really owe the debt, and did not fall victim. Second, he immediately turned the letter over to a proper authority, creating the opportunity to catch the perpetrator and to warn others of the scam. In this case, he turned it over to the Attorney General, but he might also have called Better Business Bureau or local law enforcement.
For more information about scams in Missouri and all around the country, check out the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us/. Scam Tracker is a powerful tool that displays details about scams, including location, all over the country.