Robert Cox

Writing on the Wall

Robert Cox is associate editor, online editor and lead designer for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CCNnews@cox-internet.com.


Scamming a scammer

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

It all started with a private message on Facebook from someone on my friends list.

“Hello how are you doing?”

Not thinking anything of it, I replied.

“Good. Trying to stay warm.”

After a few more pleasantries, it was down to business.

“I was just wondering if you have also heard from the Department of Health and Human Services? They are rewarding the old, retired, semi-retired, widow, and disabled with cash prizes all over the country so I was wondering if you have also gotten yours, too?”

That immediately set off alarm bells.

A government agency handing out “cash prizes?” Not likely. Besides, I’m only one of those things.

The kicker came next.

“I even thought you’d have been contacted already because I saw your name on the delivery list when FedEx came to deliver my money to my doorstep and your name was two places above mine on the list. Are you sure you haven’t gotten anything yet?”

Anyone who’s received a FedEx package in recent years should hopefully remember that they carry little electronic pads that only show the current delivery. Even if they had a list you could see, they don’t stick around long enough for you to read it.

I decided to play along, asking questions here and there to keep them on the hook until the scammer offered to put me in contact with the agent who would help me “claim your money before it’s too late.”

“Sure,” I wrote. “They can reach me at 423-3343.”

For those playing at home, that’s the number of the Berryville Police Department.

I was told to send a text to “Agent Williams Clelland” to let him know I hadn’t gotten my money yet.

“I don’t text,” I wrote. “Not sure how. Can you text him for me?”

The scammer, who was using the hacked account of one of my friends, tipped their hand once again. “What area code is it?”

I let that slide, instead pushing ahead. “Have you texted him? I could really use the money.”

After a bit more back and forth, I sent a picture of an old rotary phone. “This is my phone. Can you tell me how to text or just have the agent call me?”

Eventually, I got the scammer to act as an intermediary with the “agent.”

A few minutes later, I was a 76-year-old retired widower with a monthly income of $2,245, residing at 303 E. Madison Ave. in Berryville (also the Berryville Police Department).

Good news! My name is on the list! I’m going to receive $65,000! Just one thing — I needed to pay “$1,300.00 USD for the authorized tax clearance certificate fee and delivery fee.”

Here’s where I lost the scammer. I went one step too far. “USD? I only have pesos ... How much is that? Hello? Are you there?”

I hope I still get my money. Or at least the police department does.