BRACK: Those ding-a-lings kept adding up … to another scam

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  Here’s a new twist on a scam. It started with a call to our house last Thursday.  On the line was a person saying he was a representative from the U.S. Marshal’s office in the Russell Building in downtown Atlanta, with an “urgent family matter.” We learned this in the answering machine message.

Those three words “Urgent Family Matter” should have been the first Ding-A-Ling.

However, I called the number back. It took several tries, but I finally got someone saying they were the U.S. Marshal’s office, and then they sent me to the correct “sergeant.”

He stunned me, asking why I had failed to appear to a federal court Grand Jury summons.

“What summons?” I asked.

“Didn’t you sign a postcard for a summons, not once, but twice?” the sergeant asked.

“No, not me.”

“Maybe your wife signed your name.”

“She hasn’t done that,” I told him. “She would have told me.”

“Well, we have to get to the bottom of this, for someone is signing your name to this summons. We need to see a copy of your signature to make sure it isn’t your signature on the card. Can you come down to the Russell Federal Building to do that today?”  

By then it was about 3:30 p.m. ”No, not today.”

“Could you go to the sheriff’s office, or your local police station to verify your signature?”  

“Well, maybe, but how would that work?”

“You would give them a copy of your signature, and within two to four  hours our office would verify it through our database. If it was not you who signed the summons, your failure to appear would be removed. You would have to give them a retainer while we verified your signature. That would be $2,500 on each citation, or a total of $5,000.”

Ding-A-Long No. 2.

“What, a $5,000 retainer?”

“Yes, and if the failure to appear signature was not yours, we would immediately mail you a certified check……”

Third Ding-A-Ling.

Click. (Us hanging up.)

* * * * *

We immediately went to see Norcross Police Chief Bill Grogan.

Relating the story, he started shaking his head, “Yep, that’s a new twist, but the same old story. We hear different versions of it all the time. “

Then Bill Grogan added:

“What I have thought for so long is that if these people trying to scam others, and other people who are hacking computers….they’re all smart people. They have so much ability. Why can’t they just put their talents to something positive? They could be successful in about any field.  Look at how slick they are once they get your name, address and telephone. But no, they make their living illegally these ways. They could do so much better if they applied themselves to conventional work.”

* * * * *

The Ding-A-Linging came down to a few key words.

“Urgent family matter.”

“Retainer” of $2,500 each.

“Certified check.”

How those scam artists would get the money was a subject I didn’t wait around to hear.  The Ding-A-Lings were enough for me.