Richard Henderson's wife received a phone call at the couple's Harbor home Monday and he was immediately suspicious. He smelled a scam.
The caller said his wife was the winner of a $3,000 drawing but, before she could receive it, he needed to send some information to her e-mail address or fax number. The caller claimed to be a Mr. Edward Kanick. His phone number was 1-876-399-5398.
Checking the International Calling section of his phone book, Richard tracked the number to Jamaica.
Instead of dropping the issue at that point, Richard did something unusual. He grabbed his tape recorder and called Mr. Kanick.
"I wanted to record the conversation for all to hear," he said. "I don't want anybody out there to get hurt by this scam."
Richard came to the Pilot office this week and played the tape for me. I heard the call go through and Richard begin talking to Mr. Kanick. The scam artist asked for an e-mail or fax to send "information."
"My computer isn't working right, so I told him I would get a fax number and call him back," Richard said.
Richard doesn't have a fax machine and, unfortunately, he couldn't find someone willing to offer their fax number to continue his investigation. His wife said to forget it, but he couldn't.
He typed up a flyer recounting his experience, including the information above, and distributed copies to locations around town, including the VFW hall in Brookings and his church. He took a copy to the Brookings Police Department, where an employee redirected him to the Curry County Sheriff's substation in Harbor. The office was closed, so he left a flyer.
Sharing his story with the Pilot was his next, and final, endeavor regarding the scam.
"I just want to get the word out," he said.
Why was he suspicious of the phone call in the first place?
Several relatives of his have encountered and recognized scams in recent years, he said.
"I had a cousin in Washington who received an e-mail about a relative (supposedly) traveling in another country who needed money to get back home," he said. "But my cousin knew that relative was right here at home."
Another relative received a similar phone call. But, Richard said, the scam artist didn't know that the supposed "relative" needing help had died recently.
These scams are a dime a dozen these days, and while many people recognize them for what they are, there are still some who get taken.
I admire Richard for trying to do something to limit the damage these scams can do. He's not alone. I receive at least four phone calls or e-mails here at the Pilot each month from people wanting to warn the public about scams. I occasionally get calls from the police or sheriff's department about scams specific to our area. I also receive regular "Scam Alerts" from the Oregon Department of Justice.
Even charities should be checked. Oregon Attorney General John Kroger recommends that anyone wishing to donate to a charity do some research first. Information is available at www.oregonattorneygeneral.gov. Click on the link: "check on a charity." All charities soliciting money in Oregon must be registered with the Oregon Department of Justice Charities Section.
The fact that these scams keep coming tells me that the perpetrators must be achieving some level of success.
All we can do is stay vigilant and, like Richard, alert others when we can.