Fraud cases rise, stealing tens of thousands of dollars from local victims




“The scams are vast and they are constantly evolving,” says Sgt. Zak Holschbach, who is investigating numerous reports received by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. “You hunt ghosts.

In one case he showed us, one of the so-called ghosts appeared in crystal clear surveillance footage at an ATM in Chicago, but you can only see the man from behind, and so far, investigators in northeastern Wisconsin have come on empty trying to identify him.

Holschbach says surveillance footage shows a man cashing a stolen check from a local woman, depositing it in an untraceable account, causing her to lose thousands of dollars.

It’s one of more than 230 fraud cases the Brown County Sheriff’s Office has worked on this year, and the number is only growing, with 11 just last week.

“I’ve seen cases just personally that I’ve worked with that have been six-figure cases. I’ve seen tens of thousands of dollar cases, ”Holschbach says.

He investigates all kinds of crimes, but recently he’s been working on fraud case after case.

“This particular scam was an IRS grant / US grant that they thought they received as a government grant,” he explains.

This is part of a new scam that Holschbach had not seen until now.

He says the victim, who had been going through hard times and was in dire need of the money, received a text message saying she had received a government grant but needed to pay a treatment fee first.

To hook the victim, he says the crooks sent ID with “California” clearly printed at the top, but showing an Illinois donor sticker at the bottom, as well as Facebook’s California address, Abe Lincoln in the background and “Jane Q Public” under the photo of a man, with the name printed “Agent Michael Peterson” next to it.

“I am very clearly a fraudster,” says Holschbach.

But he says when the victim questioned him, the crooks sent more so-called evidence trying to make him look legitimate.

The local victim ended up losing thousands of dollars.

“It was shipped to Alabama. Money, US currency, in a house in Alabama, and the intellectual property that followed the money was actually in Africa, ”says Holschbach. “In many of these fraud cases, the money usually doesn’t come back. It’s very rare.

The arrests too.

Of the 236 fraud cases his agency has received this year, Holschbach says they see all kinds of scam attempts. There is number spoofing, the ones where someone is in distress and you have to pay to help them or you suddenly find your long lost love.

In some cases, victims here send money to duped people in other states, or the money they are convinced to give up and post to someone else is immediately converted to bitcoin or in digital currency, never to be seen again.

“It looks like it’s on the rise. It really is, ”says Holschbach.

He thinks that a more “do everything online” world, in the midst of a pandemic, also makes it easier to wash checks.

This is where someone steals checks from the mail, changes the name and dollar amount, deposits the check at an ATM or on a mobile device, and walks away richer.

In the case of a local victim, who wrote a check to pay her annual insurance bill, she was not even immediately aware that it had been robbed.

As to where his check was cashed, by the man seen in surveillance footage in Chicago, Holschbach said: “The name used to create this account is just another victim who had his phone stolen. identity in a purse in a car. “

So the big question is why is this happening more and why here?

He says maybe it’s because we’re nice from the Midwest.

Holschbach says crooks know people here are generally more confident, which makes this area a good target.

While law enforcement will try to investigate, if you suddenly find out that you are about to receive a lot of money, they urge you to do so first:

“Just stop and check things out. I think that’s the thing. Not to become a philosopher, but in life we ​​make emotional decisions, and that’s what happens in those cases, ”he says. “The common theme is… they feel so stupid to fall into the trap, but (it’s) all walks of life, all backgrounds. As with everything in life, when you make an emotional decision, immediately, c This is often where the error lies.

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