If it sounds too good to be true ...

By Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer July 24, 2010 05:00 am

When I run dry of things to write about in this column, I can always county on reader to come to the rescue.

This week I was contacted by two readers, one wanting to spread the word about a scam; another to help people recycle unwanted paint. I’m happy to oblige.


Too good to be true

Brookings resident Tracey Ensley recently received in the mail a solicitation to be a “secret shopper” in the area.  

How it works: A person receives an unsolicited notice in the mail explaining he has been selected as a “Customer Service Evaluator” to participate in a “Secret Shopping” program. The company to be “evaluated” is Western Union. The recipient is instructed to operate as a potential customer performing a “Western Union cash to cash” service, sending money to the company. Included in the mailing is a cashiers check in the amount of $950 is included to facilitate the transfer.

The letter states “this assignment is time-sensitive and must be completed in a timely manner within 24 hours of receiving this package.”

The secret shopper is directed to cash the $950 check at their bank, keeping $150 for themselves as compensation and use the remaining $800 to make the Western Union transfer to the company. Of course anyone who does this will quickly learn the check is bogus, and they have lost $800 of their own money in the process.

Ensley was suspicious right away and called the Oregon Attorney General’s Office, which suggested she contact her local newspaper. She did, providing me a copy of the scam material. She also contacted the bank listed on the check, a credit union in Corpus Christi, Texas. A bank employee confirmed it was a scam.

“I’m worried that others in Brookings might get this same mailing and fall for it,” Ensley told me.

The check looked real enough and the accompanying letter sounded like a great opportunity to earn some quick cash. But a cursory Internet search on the name of the company, Crenshaw Research, showed that many people have reported or fallen for the scam.

Lesson here: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.


New life for old paint

On Thursday, reader Gene Starns sent me an e-mail wanting to alert others to Oregon’s new PaintCare program that helps people recycle or dispose of leftover paint. The program was launched July 1 with 30 collection centers in paint stores across the state. By year’s end, up to 90 centers are scheduled to be open.

The program is the first in the nation, approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2009. The effort is funded by a retail fee charged to the customer upon purchasing the paint: 35 cents for a half-gallon and $1.60 for five gallons.

In his e-mail, Starns wrote: “When I went into the paint store to get a gallon of trim paint for the house, I asked about the rules for disposing of old paint cans. Taking them to the transfer station has always been a pain for me, and I worried that once I got them there they would be refused for one reason or another. Well, I learned at the paint store this morning that ... a new law was enacted in Oregon. I can now take all my paint cans in to the paint store and, if they are empty or dry, they will take them and recycle them.  No more driving to the transfer station with used paint cans.”

Amen to that!

The local paint drop-off site is Kerr Ace Hardware in downtown Brookings.