Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Western Union Warning

Western Union is a very safe way to send money....if you personally know the person to whom your sending it. However, scammers and con artists also use Western Union to receive money. You might think that you know who you're sending money to, but anyone can come up with a fake I.D. to use for picking up money from Western Union.

I've picked up money from Western Union for Sherlock Investigations, and I know that they don't check my I.D. very closely. As long as it looks official, and has my name on it, it'll do. A person could set up a website, lift someone's wallet and use his name on his website, and then use his license when customers send him money through Western Union for something they'll never get.

Western Union is advising people to help prevent consumer fraud. Here is what they're saying:

"Are you sending money to claim lottery or prize winnings, or on a promise of receiving a large amount of money?" (If you didn't enter a lottery, you didn't win the lottery. And if you did enter a lottery, you don't have to pay more money to get your winnings. Duh.)

"Are you sending money because you were 'guaranteed' a credit card or loan?" (Don't pay money to get a credit card or loan.)

"Are you responding to an Internet or phone offer that you aren't sure is honest?" (Never spend more than you can afford to lose on eBay.)

"Are you sending money to someone you don't know or whose identity you can't verify?"

Now, here is something really special that you should know about Western Union. Suppose you just read this blog, and it just happens that you sent money to someone yesterday and now you wish that you hadn't? Well, you might be able to get your money back if you hurry.

Go to Western Union and ask them to stop your money transfer immediately, or call them at 1-800-325-6000. If your money has not been picked up yet, it will be returned to you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More on Gypsy Psychics

Since I posted Gypsy Psychic Scams some time ago, I've gotten quite a few responses from those identifying themselves as Gypsies. All of it has been angry.
In another posting, I apologized to Gypsies, because I did not mean to offend Gypsies as a people. Some have pointed out that Gypsies are involved in legitimate professions and businesses. That may well be.

Yet, I abide by my original contention: Shops with neon signs in the window that say Spiritual Advisor, Psychic Reader, or whatever, are fraudulent. A few of these women (most are women) may think that they have supernatural powers. What they have is the keen ability to read people, question people, and extract a great deal of information from them. Maybe they're convinced that they have supernatural abilities..

And, yes, most of these places are run by Gypsies. That certainly doesn't make all Gypsies bad, but it doesn't change the fact that most "fortune tellers" are Gypsies. I'm sure that there are many good, law-abiding Gypsies.

Most of the angry Gypsies who respond to this blog quote scriptures or use relgious terminology. None though, have said to me that it is wrong to lie, steal and cheat. And that's what goes on in these places.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Child Abuse

A social services office in New York frequently refers people to us who are trying to locate birth parents. Although these people usually have little money, we try to help them.

Today, a social services agency that helps homeless people called us. The case worker had a man there who was looking for the mother of his child, and the child. The social worker called Sherlock Investigations to see if we could help.

My associate, Sherry, talked to him. Right away, she asked the social worker if the homeless man had a criminal record. While still on the phone, the social worker asked the homeless person.

"Yes, he does," he said.

"For what," Sherry asked.

"Child abuse," he said.

Of course we're not going to help him find his child when he's been arrested for child abuse! You'd think that the social worker would have asked him himself.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Investigate Before You Invest

At Sherlock Investigations we get many cases from people who've invested their life savings with some "Wall Street" firm. In every case, they invested just a few thousand dollars for starters. Within a short time, the return on their investment reaped a great harvest. After they had taken the bait, and, yes, that's what they did, they invested a much larger sum.

When the time came to reap their great reward, the investor was gone. Then they hired Sherlock Investigations to find the person. In some cases we found the person, and when we did, they were arrested.

When I mentioned a "Wall Street firm" above, I didn't really mean it. Anyone can have a nice web site designed, and anyone can rent a phone, a desk, or a cubbyhole from firms located on Wall Street who rent to such fly-by-night companies.

In New York there are a number of such companies. They're on Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and the Empire State Building. Anyone can have a prestigious address.

Most of the time, our cases involving scam artists are past-tense. But, last week we had a client from Italy who was interested in investing with a New York-based company. Fortunately, he hired us to check out the company first.

It turned out that the company was run by scam artists, and two of the people involved were wanted by authorities in Europe.

Always investigate before you invest. If you don't, you could lose your retirement, your life savings, and your home.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New York Taxis

It's amazing how many people leave personal items in New York City taxis. Most of the time they never see them again.

One time a client took a cab to our office. On the cab seat he found a woman's wallet, so he brought it to us. From the driver's license inside we learned that a woman from Texas lost it. Included with the driver's license were credit cards (an identity thief's dream), and over $100 in cash.

To make a long story short, we tried for an hour to locate her. We finally found a phone number in Texas and left a message. In a little while, panic stricken, she called us. She didn't even know that she had lost her wallet until she checked her voice mail at home.

She took another cab to our office; I gave her the wallet, and she darted off with hardly a "thank you." Most Texans I know are more gracious.

We've had a number of clients who've come to us to report that they left something in a cab...everything from wallets to laptop computers. I don't think we've ever been able to track down the lost item.

This brings up one of my rules. Just like I have an eBay rule (Never spend more than you can afford to lose.), my New York taxi rule is, "Always get a receipt."

New York cabs have an automated receipt printer. If you don't take your receipt, the cabby will just throw it away. If you take your receipt, and you absent-mindedly leave something in a cab, you can easily track the cab and cabby and locate what you left behind.