Doug Lemcke tried to scam me on Thursday.
Well, not really.
Not really Doug Lemcke but someone on Facebook posing as the former Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Ceres.
I knew Doug for years when he was employed as a city department head and was instrumental in the establishment of Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. He also was the city's key guy in building the Ceres Community Center. Shortly after the center opened its doors the Anthony Cannella led City Council showed its appreciation by laying off Lemcke and others in the wake of budget problems. I felt bad for Doug the night he pled for his job to be spared by the council who had already sharpened the guillotine in another room of the center he built.
Over a year ago Doug popped up on Facebook and asked to be my Facebook friend. I could see what he was up to and he would comment on things I posted. It seems we are of the same political persuasion. I kind of thought it was odd that last week I saw another friend request pop up from Doug. Thinking he might have accidentally deleted me, I approved the new friend request from him.
Within an hour I received an instant message from the supposed Doug Lemcke: "Hello, how are you doing?"
Another oddity as Doug never once IM'ed me.
"Doing good and you?" I replied.
"Doing good as well. Have you heard about the good news?"
I'm thinking this is Doug's way of telling me that the city is hiring him back. But I dismiss the idea quickly because I know the city is about hit a budget brick wall doing 55.
"What good news?" I asked.
From the other side, probably in Nigeria, comes this: "I won $250,000.00 from the 2016 PowerBall Jackpot in conjunction with Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) and I saw your name when they came for my delivery. Did you receive yours yet?"
I'm a bit slow and I'm think this is really Doug but he's just pulling my leg and ready to get onto some other topic. So I write, "Ha ha ha. Scam huh?"
I informed "Doug" that I never heard of Alliance for Retired Americans and wrote, "Sounds like a scam."
"Well it's not a scam because I received mine in person and I saw your name on their winning list when they came for my delivery."
Alarms are going off in my head by this point. The odds of winning a quarter of a million dollars from a Powerball I never bought a ticket for would be the same as me trying to reach the surface of the moon by jumping off my roof.
"Is this really Doug?"
"Yes, the Doug you know."
By now I'm KNOW I'm being conned but play along.
"Let's make sure. What was the job you had that I knew you at..."
I'm sure there was some wiggling going on.
The bogus Doug Lemcke was unable to answer "the city of Ceres." Instead of disappearing the scammer writes (and this is verbatim): "Don't bother you don't truth what am telling you so don't bother your self."
I shoot a parting salvo: "Scammer."
I should have played dumb and taken the scammer up to the end. Eventually I would have been asked to supply my bank account number for the deposit of my $250,000 winnings. Or I would have been asked to send a certified cashier's check for a processing fee to have it wired.
This was my first direct Facebook scam.
The last scam was in 2011 when I received an email through Facebook but conducted through email. Someone hacked into the Facebook account of Bryan and Becki Nicholes and got email addresses of their friends. Pretending to be Becki, the scammer sent this email: "We're writing this with tears. My family and i made a quick trip to Madrid Spain on a short vacation and we got mugged at the park of hotel where we stayed. Worse of it was that our bags, cash and credit cards were all stolen at GUNPOINT leaving us penniless right now.
"It's was a horrible experience for us and we need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is that we still have our passports. we need some cash to settle our bills and get on flight back home. please let us know if you can help.
"We're freaked out at the moment.
Knowing that the Nicholes vacation quite a bit, I naively wrote back: "Is this for real guys? You didn't say how we can help?"
From somewhere else on the globe came this: "Glad you replied back, i have nothing left on me right now, luckily for me i still have my passport with me, it would have been worse if they had made away with my passport. Well all i need right now is $1,830 you can have it wired to my name via Western Union I'll have to show my passport as ID to pick it up here, i promise to refund you as soon as i get back home. Here's my info below.
Name : Bryan Nicholes
Address:-C/ Carrera San Jeronimo Nº18,
"As soon as it has been done, kindly get back to me with the confirmation number, let me know if you are heading to the WU outlet now??
It smelled like a scam and I wasn't about to send money. The Nicholeses were not in Spain.
All you can say is go with your instincts. If something appears fishy it probably is. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
Cybercrimes cost Americans $800 million a year, according to the FBI. Confidence fraud and romance scams made up $86.7 million of that loss in 2014.
Women are more likely to get stung in romance scams. Scammers cruise dating websites, chat rooms and social media and use well-rehearsed scripts to attract potential victims. Often they involve family tragedies or severe life circumstances to extract money from their victims.
A family member of mine (whose identity shall be kept secret) was stung by one of those romance scams. It started when she took a cruise to Alaska as a single elderly woman where a much younger male ship worker flirted with her and made her feel special. She was, after all, single after her third failed marriage. The fact that a younger man was paying her attention was particularly intoxicating for her. I bluntly told her that good looking men in their late 30's don't aspire to be with women in their 60's - unless it's all about the money.
They corresponded long after the boat docked. He lived in Romania and the poor unfortunate soul kept running into emergencies. He was shot in a botched liquor store robbery and then needed an emergency medical surgery, always asking for money from my relative. It was one thing after another and sad to say she fell for it. I advised her she was being scammed by "Bogdan" but she refused to believe it. She said he was flying into SFO on a Monday to marry her and she waited but he never arrived. I told her the score and she was being duped. The thing that is most tragic is the money she was sending this low life was being given to her by her mother who was sitting on a fat retirement nest egg. When all was said and done, Bogdan had bilked $200,000 and all she had was a photo of him from the cruise.
Don't fall for it folks. And while you're at it, do smart things like shred all your mail with your name and address on it, get your Social Security card out of your purse or wallet, monitor your bank statements and credit reports, don't be lazy with passwords and don't trust anyone asking for personal information via the phone or email.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org