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Be very cautious when buying any goods on the street
Ceres Police Chief Art deWerk - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The following message was recently sent to Ceres Police Nixle users regarding a new scam being used on hapless victims: "Ceres Police Department has received multiple reports of people falling victim to scammers whose electronics deals were too good to be true. The victims were contacted outside of Ceres businesses on Hatch Road and offered iPads and flat screen televisions for low, "out of the box" prices. The victims paid cash for what they thought were brand-name electronics wrapped in bubble wrap with store labeling and accessories (see pictures), but once the packaging was peeled away, they discovered they had paid hundreds of dollars for big pieces of wood wrapped like televisions and tiles wrapped in paper with the Apple logo printed on it instead of iPads."

There should be no surprise that criminals have found yet another devious way to steal from innocent victims. Time in jail or state prison gives people plenty of time to concoct ways to commit crime and to try to get away with it. It also takes a bold sort of person to do their crime at busy populated areas in full view of the victim and anyone else who might be around. The suspects in the Ceres cases may well be local but I have to believe that they do not stay around long after selling a few bogus products. When similar crimes have been committed, we have found that the perpetrators victimize a few people and then quickly move to the next city before they get caught or their identities become known.

A perplexing aspect of these kinds of crimes is how trusting the victims are. Police realize that the iPad or television packaging may look real enough to the untrained eye, but everything else about the circumstances is wrong. Consider the idea of people standing in a parking lot selling items for far less than they are actually worth, which should be the first cause for concern. It also takes a lot of trust for a potential victim to accept a parking lot deal of an electronic device that they have no way of know if it works properly or at all for that matter. And to complete the transaction without inspecting the item before paying for it leaves the police to wonder aloud. Police are naturally suspicious because of their training and experience, but it seems to me that a person need not be inherently suspicious to quickly walk away from these situations.

There is, of course, the old adage that "if something is too good to be true, it probably is not true." The main reason people fall victim to these kinds of scams is that they are willing to take a chance that the deal may be a good one. The operative word here is "chance." It is much like gambling with the chances of coming out the winner being extremely remote. So it goes for any kind of scam that people may fall for. Our advice is to shut down any offers of unbelievable opportunities to get rich fast, to triple your money without having to do anything, or to buy items on the street well below market value. And regarding the latter, much of what is sold on the street is stolen anyway, so it is important to stay away from those kinds of temptations.

Keep in mind that the world has produced millions of thieves, fast-talking scammers and manipulators whose sole purpose in the world is to take your money or possessions. These criminals use the Internet, the U.S. mail in the form of letters, in-person and through emails to in their efforts to victimize people. When dealing with these kinds of people or "opportunities," it is our advice that you automatically assume a suspicious attitude and to shut the scammer down before anything can get started.

Ceres Police would like anyone who has fallen victim to this or any other scams to be sure to report the events by calling 538-5712 to file a police report. If contacted by someone trying to sell electronics, be sure to report them immediately by calling the number above and providing a description of the person(s) and/or vehicle they are in (make, model, color, license plate number).