Be happy, but be intelligent

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
I love the holidays from Thanksgiving through the New Year when I begin to plan decorations and cards for Valentine Day. It is a shame in our busy day and age that people are not satisfied to go out and earn a good living. Instead, they spend their time and energy thinking up ways to con those who do work hard for what they have. I have been in the newspaper world for many years now, but I have never seen scamming and stealing on this scale. The new cyber world we live in has many wonderful features and time saving helps, but with these advances also comes danger and opportunity for wrongdoing.

Today while cleaning the house and cooking, I received seven calls in succession that were not solicited, appreciated, or that I was happy about getting. Three were for credit card protection for cards I do not have. An additional three were for extended car warranties on my vehicle, which is doing just fine. The seventh was from someone I could not understand well enough to know what he wanted with me. He stammered out that he was calling about a particular account, which I do not have. In fact, I have never had an account with that company. Last week I had the IRS scam where if I did not pay the man on the phone over six hundred dollars “right then” with one of my cards, the sheriff’s office would send someone to arrest me. I told him to please send them on and that I would be waiting for them. I added, “Since I am friends with many sheriff’s deputies and dispatchers, I am sure I can work something out with the whomever comes.” He hung up with a loud click.

Several years ago I was assigned an article on identity theft and fraud online, and I was shocked on what I learned talking with members of the banking community about what was happening right here in Southeast Texas. The one thing that struck home with me was the amount of time it took each victim to get the matter deciphered and corrected. In some cases, it took years and two folks shared with me that their credit reports were still not cleared and made accurate.

Today I also received an email from a long time Georgia friend telling me about a new scam that happened to her elderly grandparents and I found it worthy of mentioning to you. She was furious and wanted to know had I heard of it in Texas. This is the time of the year when people send gifts by mail, FedEx, UPS, courier, and her grandparents, long since retired, received a telephone call on their landline. The caller said someone had sent them a gift by courier and that they needed to verify someone would be home to receive the gift and to sign for the delivery.

The couple was excited, and like you or I probably would do, they listened while the polite courier employee quoted them their complete address. Agreeing to be home, the voice on the phone said the delivery would be made within the hour and to please expect it, setting the stage for the hoax.

Sure enough the doorbell rang within the same hour and a nicely uniformed gentleman stood there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine, along with a small machine the couple described as a credit card stamper like they had used in stores. The courier had his badge on and was very pleasant as he handed over the gift. No card was attached, but he explained that he had delivered these gifts in the past and that a card would be sent in the regular mail delivery. He also very kindly said that because the wine was a part of the gift, the company required him to get a $3.50 charge and to prove he had indeed made the delivery to the correct person.

The grandmother picked up her purse and was counting out the $3.50 while the husband prepared to sign. The courier had been so nice. He then said, “Oh, I am so sorry. Our company is very strict about its policies and we are not allowed to accept cash money. You must put the small charge on one of your credit cards.” The grandmother began to back off and did not think this was a good thing to do, but by then, her husband had chatted with the young man and felt it was perfectly all right to do as he asked. He handed him his debit card, which happened to be a MasterCard at the local credit union he had used for years. The card was swiped and the courier was on his merry way.

Long story short — When the card owner went to the credit union on Monday morning, he decided to check his balance. Over $4,000 had been withdrawn from their account and they are in the difficult process of having family members help in getting it cleared up here during the holidays.

Beware. Do not give out your information or hand over your credit card to anyone not in a reputable business. These people were good. The scam was thorough. They had invested money in uniforms, badges, and decent vehicles. And giving a nice gift of flowers and wine did the trick in most cases.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or


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