Using the emotions of victims against them is a common practice that scammers use, according to a detective with the Rolla Police Department (RPD), but victims can counter their effort by using reason, logic and common sense against scam artists.

Using the emotions of victims against them is a common practice that scammers use, according to a detective with the Rolla Police Department (RPD), but victims can counter their effort by using reason, logic and common sense against scam artists.

RPD Detective Sgt. Ken Nakanishi spoke about some of the common scams he has investigated as well as tips to avoid being scammed with about 20 people at a Phelps County AARP Chapter meeting Monday at the Eugene E. Northern Community Hall.

Nakanishi recalled one type of scam over the telephone in which a suspect used a local telephone book, called random people in the listings and told them that a loved one had been involved in a serious accident or suffered a serious medical injury and was hospitalized.

“The person would not tell them who the patient was because obviously (the suspect) didn’t know and didn’t want to give the wrong name,” Nakanishi said.

The suspect would then say, “I can’t tell you the name of the person but if you give me a name, I could tell you, yes or no,” according to Nakanishi. The suspect then told victims to send a money order to people who the victims thought were helping their loved one, but the suspect would “just pocket the money,” the detective said.

Nakanishi said the RPD was able to build a case and filed charges of stealing against the suspect, who was later placed on probation.

“Because of our care and our concern for our loved ones ... people work on your emotions to get you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do,” Nakanishi said, but added that people should question in the above case, “why would he not just tell me the name?”

While stealing is one level of wrong, Nakanishi said making a person worry needlessly about a loved one is a different kind of wrongdoing.

If a person becomes a victim of a scam, Nakanishi said the victim can be in denial that it didn’t happen or the victim can become embarrassed.

Nakanishi remembered a case in which a suspect was receiving numerous checks from an older individual. The bank saw this pattern and made a report to the Division of Health and Senior Services, which in turn contacted the RPD.

“The older individual was taken advantage of and that individual didn’t want to say anything because of embarrassment,” Nakanishi said. “Ultimately, it’s embarrassment that keeps a person from coming forward.”

Stolen identities is another type of scam and as Nakanishi explained, “It’s very easy nowadays to acquire someone else’s information ... because of the Internet. A lot of our own personal information is floating around somewhere in some data banks and sometimes those data banks get hacked by people.”

He noted an example of when information from the Veterans’ Affairs was mishandled and compromised.

“The worst thing about credits cards or anything with your identity is that the 10 minutes they (scam artists) spent to ruin your life, you’re going to spend the next five years trying to fix it. It’s a pain,” Nakanishi said.

How to avoid scams

So what can people do to deter being scammed?

If a call seems suspicious, Nakanishi recommended a person just hang up. For people with caller ID, Nakanishi recommended they write down the phone number and contact the police department with that information.

Nakanishi also suggested comparing the phone number of a suspicious caller to a reliable, known number for the business the caller claims to be associated with. Additionally, people who receive suspicious calls should ask for the caller’s information, such as their name and what department they work in.

Nakanishi also said to be careful when people are asked to verify their personal information with a company or organization they belong to.

Also be careful of scams that are “too good to be true,” such as getting an unbelievable offer when selling items on the Internet, Nakanishi warned.

If a person’s identity has been stolen or credit card has been compromised, Nakanishi recommended calling one of the three major credit bureaus to report it and place a security alert on their cards.

Breaking the drug cycle

Also during Nakanishi’s visit, he spoke about drugs, saying, “Drugs are prevalent in our town and we’re seeing a lot of these drugs that you see in bigger cities,” such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and designer drugs, which he described as K2 or bath salts.

“Our Chief of Police Mark Kearse has made it his mission to eradicate the drug problem here in Rolla, but it’s a never-ending fight ... Any time we arrest a drug dealer or arrest someone with drugs, there are going to be two or three people who will take their place,” Nakanishi said.

Prevention and education are key to stopping that cycle,” the detective said.

Additionally, Nakanishi noted that several of the crimes he investigates have a connection to drugs.

While investigating a burglary or forgery, “there’s usually some kind of drug nexus or drug tie to that crime,” he said, explaining that people may have an addiction or are experimenting with drugs and because of losing their jobs, they may steal or sell stolen property to buy the drugs.