Here's some random, all-purpose predictions guaranteed to come true, every day, somewhere on planet Earth: “Today, cumulonimbus clouds will pile up into an electrical storm from which lightning bolts strike the ground. Various adorable babies will take their first tentative toddling steps. And countless con artists using varying forms of bait will try to scam money out of unsuspecting people.”
And here's a random statistic underscoring that last prediction: on May 7, a Google search for news stories posted in the previous seven days and containing the words “police,” “warn” and “scams” yielded eight pages of results.
Most of the scams will be familiar to regular readers of this website's scam coverage; only the names, dates and places change. For example: in early April, we mentioned how various police forces in Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois all warned residents of their respective municipalities about a particular scam targeting local people and businesses: scammers fraudulently posing as utility-company representatives threatened to cut off electricity immediately unless the victims coughed up large (and untraceable) payments.
So it's no surprise the utility scam is still going on. Police in Cedar Falls, Iowa issued a warning on May 6: watch out for phone calls from scammers posing as collection agents for MidAmerican Energy. That was almost identical to the May 4 warning from police in Frederick, Maryland, about scammers posing as agents of Potomac Edison, which sounded similar to the warning from police in Vineland, New Jersey about faux collection agents pretending to represent Vineland Municipal Electric Utility, which sounded very much like the police warning elsewhere in that state, to residents of Jackson targeted by scammers pretending to be from Jersey Central Power & Light.
Other versions of the scam this week were mentioned by officials in Cornelius, North Carolina; Alcoa, Tennessee; and in Washington State, where the Burien police department and Seattle City Light both issued anti-scam warnings to local residents.
While the utility scam generated lots of police interest throughout America this week, it was far from the only one. The jury duty scam raised its ugly head across the country as well. That's the one where scammers pretending to represent your local police or sheriff's office call and threaten to arrest you for having missed jury duty — though they'll let you off the hook if you wire them some cash or give them a pre-paid money card right now.
A partial listing of police departments, sheriff's offices or other American legal authorities that issued warnings about the jury duty scam this past week include police in Prince George's and Howard counties in Maryland; Cherokee County, Georgia; Henderson, Nevada; the city of Portsmouth and county of Fairfax in Virginia; Broward County, Florida; DeKalb County, Alabama; Weber County, Utah; and a statewide warning issued by Hawaii's Department of Public Safety.
Of course, scam victims are not limited to America. Last month we warned you about the particularly odious kidnapping scam: the scammer does enough online research to learn your name and the names of your immediate family, then calls to say that (for example) your child has been kidnapped, and terrible things will happen unless you pay up right now.
It's still happening all across the country — this week's American examples include victims or would-be victims ranging from Hopewell County, New Jersey to Decatur, Georgia — and on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, where police in the island nation of Singapore warned citizens and residents to be especially wary of this scam, which has snared a growing number of Singaporeans in the past year.
So that's three types of scam — utility, jury-duty and kidnapping — picked more or less at random from the hundreds of varieties of scam in existence. Three scams limited to a single seven-day period, and there still wasn't room enough to list them all in a single article like this one.
And here's a depressing prediction: if you pick any three well-known scams and try a similar seven-day news search next week, next month or next year … you'll get the same result. All you can do is stay on guard so none of those future scam-news stories are written about you.