Clinton County Sheriff's Office

  • Agency: Clinton County Sheriff's Office
  • Address: 241 Seventh Avenue North, Clinton, 52732 IA
  • Chief:
Phone: (563) 242-9211
Fax: (563) 242-6307

Clinton County Sheriff's Office is located at 241 Seventh Avenue North, Clinton, 52732 IA. The Clinton County Sheriff's Office phone number is (563) 242-9211.

Clinton County Sheriff's Office News

GIFT CARDS – NOW A SCAMMERS BEST FRIEND Go into almost any supermarket, pharmacy, convenience store, or other “big box” location, and it is hard not to see the wide variety of gift cards and reload cards offered for sale. A lot of the time, they appear on the endcaps, or the ends of the aisles. Gift cards seem like a pretty convenient way to give a gift – they sure give us a broad selection of options for giving. But…gift cards and reload cards are now officially the favorite method of scammers to steal our money. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on October 16, gift cards are the number one payment method scammers or imposter demand. The number of crooks wanting to get paid with gift cards increased 270% since 2015. But not all gift cards are created equal in the eyes of these crooks. They are not demanding payment in Pizza Ranch gift cards. The crooks greatly prefer cards from major retailers, like Target, Walmart, or Best Buy. Or even better, they seem to favor iTunes or Google Play cards. In fact, the FTC, which takes complaints on scams from across the nation, tells us 42% of folks who paid a scammer with a gift card used iTunes or Google Play cards. Folks who get scammed in these iTunes or Google Play scams wonder how they lose their money when they retain the card in their hands. It’s pretty simple. The criminals persuade their victims to reveal the alpha-numeric code on the reverse side of such cards, and read it to the crook calling the victim. With that number, the criminal can immediately electronically zap the money off that card to another account, where it disappears forever. How do you recognize a scam? You don’t need to know all the different kind of scams, or the various imposters who contact us, trying to defraud us. Just know this - if someone calls you and wants you to go out and buy a gift card, it is a scam. Every time. No exceptions. When you find yourself peeling back that gummy adhesive on the reverse side of these cards while you are talking to a stranger on the phone, you are a couple of seconds away from getting fleeced. And just yesterday, a Clinton man found how quickly one can lose $5000 in one of these gift card scams. I’ll call the man Marvin, not his real name. Marvin stayed home from work yesterday, feeling ill. He noticed many calls coming into his cellphone all day long, from out of the area code. He finally answered one. The caller asked Marvin, “remember us, we sold you an insurance policy for your computer?” Marvin did remember. In July 2017, he paid $350 to a telemarketer who convinced him he needed insurance on his laptop. The caller told Marvin, his company planned to go out of business, and wanted to refund the $350. The caller persuaded Marvin to go online and open up his online banking. With Marvin’s permission, the caller took control of the computer, and made it appear he overpaid Marvin for the refund, to the tune of $5000. Somehow, Marvin needed to pay this back. The caller wanted Marvin to go to Target and Best Buy, and load the maximum amount permitted on gift cards. And Marvin did, then read off the code on the back of the card to the caller. Marvin only realized later in the day what really happened, after he called a friend to ask about updating the virus protection on his computer, since his policy got canceled. Marvin’s friend asked a couple of questions, and it became clear this was a scam. I call it the tech-support double tap scam. The people who called Marvin in July 2017 and sold him “insurance”, were scammers from the get go. They bilked him out of $350 then, and now decided to circle back and see how much more was there to take. Once Marvin allowed them access to his computer and online banking, they manipulated the record to show what they wanted Marvin to believe. It’s a fairly clever scam. Marvin admits he overlooked some red flags along the way, but the biggest red banner of all was this – SCAMMERS WANTED PAYMENT USING A GIFT CARD. You don’t need to know all the nuances or intricacies of every scam out there. You just need to know, you never buy a gift card for a stranger. DEFENSIVE DRIVING COURSE I’m continuing to beat the drum to draw attention to our offering of a defensive driving class for seniors. Seniors vs. Crime, along with AARP and Clinton Community College, sponsors a defensive driving course again this fall. This session is scheduled for November 13, from 10 am to 3 pm, at the Technology Center at 1951 Manufacturing Drive. This is a classroom exercise, with a very fine hot lunch, furnished by Seniors vs. Crime. The instruction will review safe driving habits, learn how to compensate for changes in vision, hearing and reaction times, how to handle driving problems such as aggressive drivers, and understanding modern safety devices like anti-lock brakes and air bags. I always receive very positive feedback on this class. To register, call 563-244-7100. Cost for AARP members is $15, for non-members is $20. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

DATA BREACHES AND CREDIT FREEZES On September 7, 2018, Equifax, one of the three large credit reporting agencies in the US, reported the credit files of 145 million people hacked and stolen. The hackers gained access to all the personal information, like social security numbers, birthdates, names, and addresses, in these files. This was, and still is, a very serious breach of personal privacy for a big chunk of the population. And it can’t be fixed. Once stolen, this information is useful as long as you live. As opposed to canceling a credit card that got compromised, you really can’t cancel your name or birth date. Because this was such an egregious breach, I hoped and expected for changes to benefit consumer protection. Well, some things did change, and some only are getting worse. What’s worse? The scale and scope of data breaches are becoming all too commonplace. Recent data breaches run the scale from 26 million Facebook accounts hacked, to Unity Point Health falling for an email phishing attack which compromised the personal information of 960,000 Iowa patients, to another email phishing attack against a local government database, exposing employee’s personal information. It’s my assessment that if your personal information is stored on an electronic database somewhere, it will get stolen. It’s only a matter of when and to what degree. So what’s changed for the better? The best thing to come out of this fiasco so far are changes in Iowa and federal law which allow us to place and lift credit freezes without cost. A credit freeze is the best protection available for our credit files. A credit freeze restricts anyone considering offering you credit from checking your credit file. No bank, credit card provider, or other loan provider will extend credit without checking to see how credit-worthy you are. This will thwart identity thieves who get your personal information from establishing credit accounts in your name. How will these freezes work? Contact each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee. When you freeze your credit file, the agency will send you a PIN. You’ll need this if you want to lift the file. Keep that letter in a safe place, with other important documents. You can also place a credit freeze on the files of your children sixteen or under, or anyone for whom you hold legal guardianship. Here’s the contact information for the credit reporting agencies: • Equifax Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services 800-685-1111 • Experian Experian.com/help 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) • Transunion TransUnion.com/credit-help 888-909-8872 TIME TO CLEAN OUT YOUR MEDICINE CABINET Senior citizens account for 39% of the drugs prescribed in the US, but only make up about 15% of the US population. It should not surprise anyone that seniors take a lot of medication. And a great deal of this medication seems to stack up in medicine cabinets, unused. This is often due to doctors discontinuing one medication before it’s gone, or the passing of the patient. What do you do with these unneeded or unused meds? Keeping them around is a bad idea, and flushing them down the toilet is even worse. Everything we put into the water supply eventually finds its way back to us. Here’s an easy answer to the problem of disposal. The Gateway Impact Coalition and the Camanche-Dewitt Coalition, both drug abuse prevention groups, along with other partners, including Seniors vs. Crime, are sponsoring a drug takeback event on October 27, 2018 from 10am to 2 pm. In Clinton, bring your meds to Ashford University Field (Lumberkings). In Dewitt, bring them to the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office’s Dewitt Annex at 226 11th St. You don’t need to sort or re-package the meds, bring them as is, drive through, and drop them off. Simple, easy, good for the environment, good for the community, and it will make your home safer and healthier. DEFENSIVE DRIVING COURSE It’s also time to think about your driving skills. Seniors vs. Crime, along with AARP and Clinton Community College, is sponsoring a defensive driving course again this fall. This session is scheduled for November 13, from 10 am to 3 pm, at the Technology Center at 1951 Manufacturing Drive. This is a classroom exercise, with a very fine hot lunch, furnished by Seniors vs. Crime. To register, call 563-244-7100. Cost for AARP members is $15, for non-members is $20. The instruction will review safe driving habits, learn how to compensate for changes in vision, hearing and reaction times, how to handle driving problems such as aggressive drivers, and understanding modern safety devices like anti-lock brakes and air bags. I always receive very positive feedback on this class. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

ARE YOU CALLING A CONTRACTOR OR A LEAD GENERATOR? A couple of months ago I wrote about the authenticity of online reviews of products and services. A major problem with these reviews I described was a thriving cottage industry of fake review writers, who get paid by sketchy merchants to write positive reviews, which appear on various websites, hoping to influence customers in their purchases. This week, I received a complaint from an older Clinton woman which really drove the point home on how problematic an over-reliance on web reviews can be for purchase decisions. The woman, and I’ll call her Jill, noticed her water heater leaking. She reached out to family, who performed a Google search, looking for someone to replace the water heater. The top return in the search listed “Clinton HVAC and Plumbing” of Clinton, Iowa. Google showed eighteen very positive reviews, scoring them 4.8 on a scale of 5. Impressed with the reviews, Jill made a call and got hold of someone, who agreed to take the job. Soon two young men visited her and looked over the job. The water heater was still under warranty, so Jill expected it replaced at no cost. The young men brought out a new water heater, but soon told Jill her water pump from her well was disabled, and her power was out. And they demanded payment. Jill refused to pay, so the men left with the new water heater, which they evidently obtained using the warranty sticker from the failing water heater. Jill was left without power, or water, and felt the men stole a new water heater from her. She needed to hire another contractor to set everything right. That contractor’s assessment was someone tampered with the water pump, perhaps to up-charge the service call. I did some research on Clinton HVAC and Plumbing. They are not registered as a contractor with the state of Iowa. They have never obtained any permits for work from Building and Neighborhood Services at Clinton City Hall. Their website shows mostly text, using generic language to describe their business focus. No address for them appears on the website, although it states they operated in Clinton since 1999. Those eighteen positive reviews? I didn’t recognize the names of any of the reviewers, and I lived here for forty years. Many of them use European-sounding names. Their reviews all use generic sounding language, avoiding specifics, many using the same words. My assessment is Clinton HVAC and Plumbing is a lead generator. The website represents itself as a stand-alone business, but really serves to direct customers to other contractors, to which it farms out the work. In Jill’s case, she doesn’t know who botched the job at her house, or who to pursue for the water heater warranty. If you want to find a contractor, don’t rely solely on the internet. I could expand on that and say, don’t rely solely on the internet for guidance on any decision you make. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

There have been multiple reports of vehicle thefts in the past week throughout Clinton County. Please assist us in trying to prevent these crimes and making the jobs of thieves a little bit harder with the following helpful hints: -Lock your vehicle, even when at home. Think of all of the other things your vehicle may contain…ID’s, your checkbook, other keys, your garage door opener, last week’s fast food wrappers and a car seat full of melted fruit snacks…Okay, so maybe you’d be happy if they took the last two things off your hands, but we haven’t taken any reports of either of those being stolen. The other items, if stolen, are just a giant headache waiting to happen. Also, vehicle alarms typically do not work if the vehicle isn’t locked. -Do not keep valuables in plain sight in your vehicle. If you can help it, don’t leave them in your vehicle at all. Hide electronic cords, cell phones, tablets, purses, shopping bags, spare change, etc. Basically, anything that looks appealing to a rogue toddler is a thief’s jam, too. -TAKE YOUR KEYS WITH YOU. Please. All keys, even that spare one you have stashed above the visor. If you find that your vehicle has been rifled through, even if nothing is taken, please report it so we can be more aware of the areas that are being targeted. Lastly, please LIKE and SHARE this post to spread the word!

The Clinton County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to announce the appointment of a new deputy sheriff. Derek Kunkel of Dubuque was sworn in today. Kunkel is a graduate of University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor Degree in Criminology and Sociology. He had previously interned with the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office. Kunkel will begin his career assigned to the jail. He will attend the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy’s 284th Basic training on January 3rd for sixteen weeks.

FREE MONEY AND GOOGLE PLAY CARDS One of the more common free money offers is back in circulation, targeting folks who want to believe it’s time for them to get a lucky break. Instead this “reward” will only turn out to enrich some scammer. Becky Nestruz of Camanche tells the story better than I can, and is willing to share it, in hopes of preventing someone else from getting clipped as she did. Becky told me, she received a call from professional sounding man, who spoke with a European accent. He told her he worked for Capital One, the banking and credit card company. Capital One, he told Becky, knew she was a good person, and deserved a break, so wanted to give her a $5000 grant, no strings attached. Becky got not have been happier. “I wanted it to be true so bad” she said, she believed everything the caller told her. He said he wanted to wire the money to her, but the state of Iowa required a “refundable bond” get posted. How much? Just $200. The caller gave Becky instructions to go to a retail outlet and buy a Google Play card, and load $200 on it, then reveal the card’s PIN code to him. Becky did it. And did she get her $5000 grant then? No. What followed was a series of demands for more purchases of Google Play cards, to satisfy more and more “bonds”, “fees”, or insurance. In the next two days, Becky bought loaded $1500 on seven Google Play cards she bought at grocery stores and convenience stores. She revealed the codes on all of them, relying on the caller’s promise Capital One planned to refund the money to her as part of the award. After $1500, and even more demands for more money, Becky had enough. She realized what happened and stopped taking the calls from “Capital One.” What happened to Becky did not surprise me. For the last three weeks, quite a number of people called me and told me they received similar calls. The callers said they represented some vaguely described “government” or a bank, and wanted to award a grant of $5000, or $9000, to “good citizens who pay their taxes and credit card bills on time.” But the grant always comes with a catch. The lucky recipient needs to buy a Google Play card and load money on it. Just remember one thing from this story. If you find yourself talking to anyone who wants you to buy a Google Play card, for any reason, it is a scam. ALWAYS. Those cards are offered as a means for internet gamers to fund their hobby. That’s all. They don’t pay for merchandise, insurance, or anything else. FACEBOOK HACKING I get a fair number of calls from people who tell me someone hacked their Facebook account, took it over, and used it to try and scam their Facebook friends. What they mean by “hacking’s is, someone accessed their account and changed the password, locking the real user out, and allowing the crook to re-configure the account, and send out phony messages. Those messages usually ask for money, or direct the “friends” to some website or phone number promoting a scam. In the latest incident reported to me, a Fulton woman used Facebook to correspond with a party who offered a rare breed of dog for sale. The Fulton woman ended up sending $500 away to someone through Walmart 2 Walmart, a money wire system, and…got nothing. Except after losing this money, the culprit locked her out of her own Facebook account, and used it to promote more sales of non-existent dogs. How can you keep from getting hacked? Your first line of defense is a strong password. But perhaps just as important is taking advantage of a Facebook security control called two-factor authentication. If you use two-factor authentication, Facebook will alert you by text or another messaging system, if someone tries to access your account from a device Facebook does not recognize. Facebook knows what computer or smartphone you normally use to conduct your Facebook business. When it sees an access attempt from something different, it won’t allow the access unless you approve by responding to their message. To enable two-factor authentication, go to the Facebook setting for security, or just click the help icon on your home page. You are not only protecting yourself with two-factor authentication, but all your Facebook friends as well. Their risk of getting messages from your hacked account will be minimal. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

Please LIKE and SHARE this post to help save lives. By following this simple rule, you can help save lives, avoid receiving a traffic ticket and prevent the potential loss of your driver’s license. Iowa law requires motorists to: Yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights or giving an audible signal by moving over to the right, stopping and waiting until the vehicle has passed before proceeding. (Iowa Code section 321.324)

The Clinton County Sheriff's Office now accepts certain payments online at https://www.clintoncounty-ia.gov/Page/Sheriff. Use the links on the page to make payments for Civil Fees, Gun Permits, and Other Sheriff's Fees. Please note NO payments for jail related items are accepted through this portal.

GOLD BUYERS AND BAD CHECKS Victory Gold Corporation placed an ad in the Clinton Herald in early August, offering to buy coins, collectibles, gold or silver jewelry, or “all forms of gold and silver”. They set up shop at the Hampton Inn on Wild Rose Drive in Clinton for six days, August 13 to August 18. Their ad also featured a coupon, offering an extra 15% for senior citizens with gold. From what I heard, this “show” was well-attended. But…in the last several days, three people contacted me, telling me the checks issued by Victory Gold bounced. And I learned of two others who received payment by check, which also bounced. This situation is still unfolding, and I am learning more about it all the time, but here’s some of what I know: • Victory Gold Corporation incorporated in Florida on August 1st, 2018. • Victory Gold gave a business address at a strip mall storefront in Miramar Beach, Florida • One man sold Victory Gold $30,000 worth of silver. His payment checks bounced, but Victory Gold did subsequently make the checks good by meeting with him and paying him cash. • I spoke with the man who operated the show in Clinton, who assured me Victory Gold wants to make all returned checks good. If you’re holding a Victory Gold check which bounced, let me know. The whole situation should be a warning about what can go wrong when dealing with transient merchants. This company lacks any track record. They lack any local ties or more importantly if you want to sue them, no local assets. You should use extreme caution in turning over to such a business, valuable property in exchange for a check which you cannot evaluate for its value until it is too late. FAKE EMAIL INVOICES The practice of scammers sending out fake invoices to businesses, government agencies, or just regular folks is not a new practice. But an interesting new wrinkle did turn up last week with a fake invoice. We can thank Carol Galloway of Dewitt for passing this on. Carol received an email showing an invoice from Microsoft billing her $3517 for software. The invoice displayed a phone number to call if “you have not placed the order”. Carol called the number and spoke to a man who cheerfully offered to cancel the order, but needed remote access to Carol’s computer to accomplish the cancellation. Carol recognized this immediately for what it was, a ruse to get into her computer, and refused to cooperate with the man. This is a clever variation of the very prolific tech support scam. There really is no reason to ever grant someone you do not know access to your computer. No good will come of it. CHECKING UP ON ROMANCE SCAMMERS Probably the most up and coming scam currently is the romance scam. Folks meet someone through Facebook, or online dating websites, and strike up what passes for a relationship. At some point the romantic interest needs money, or some other financial favor, like accepting packages and re-sending them, or accepting money and transferring it to other countries. People who I talked to who fell for this scam always remind me they saw photos of their love interest on the dating profile, or on the Facebook profile. Quite naturally, these photos show attractive, wholesome-looking people, often with their children, in high-end homes or exotic surroundings. If you visit dating websites, you need to know anyone can grab any image off the internet, and make it their own, embellishing their own profile with these fakes. But, there is a way to check up on these photos, and it’s pretty simple. How simple? Well, if you can type this phrase, “how to search by image” into the Google Search bar, you can do it. Google tells us four quick ways to check out an image. Such a search can tell you where on the internet an image can be found. For checking out dating profiles, this is pretty handy. If you check out an image of your online boyfriend or girlfriend taken from their profile, and find out it also appears in the Linked In profile of someone with a completely different name, that’s a pretty good clue someone is teeing you up for a scam. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

Construction progress on the new law center!

CALLERS FISHING FOR YOUR MEDICARE NUMBER Judging by the folks I talk to, we’ve been pretty well educated on how important it is to keep your social security number private. But we also need to know, other private information can be just as desirable to scammers, and they are clever and devious in ways to pry this information from us. In particular, medical information is a valuable commodity, very necessary to commit health care fraud. Is this a serious problem? Well, yes. On June 28, 2018, the FBI announced the indictment of 601 people nationwide for health care fraud. This scheme cost Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE (the health provider for military dependents), and private insurance companies $2 billion. Health care fraud requires two things for success: • Crooked medical providers • Access to at least some medical information for real people How do these thieves get that medical information? They can hack into the databases of hospitals or clinics. Not much we can do on an individual level to guard against that. But often the thieves get this information by just asking for it. A Clinton woman told me her story on this topic last month, and it illustrates how clever some criminals can be in persuading us to give up personal information. The woman, I’ll call her Vanessa, suffered from a chronic diabetic condition, and a heart condition. A man called her asking if she took a certain medication, and Vanessa responded truthfully. The caller claimed he represented a law firm filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical manufacturer of this medication, and wanted Vanessa to join the suit. He promised her a “five-figure payout”. Vanessa refused to participate in the suit, but in the back and forth with the caller, gave away her full name, address, birthdate, and insurance information. When Vanessa and I talked about this, her account seemed to show the caller was more interested in Vanessa’s personal information than in her participation in any lawsuit. Vanessa’s story shows how shifty callers can trick people, but sometimes they do just flat out ask for your Medicare numbers. This morning, I interviewed an elderly rural Sabula couple Ill call Reggie and Mary. Mary got a phone call from a woman who spoke with a strong accent. The caller said she called from Medicare, and wanted to verify the new card’s number. This caller persuaded Reggie and Mary to reveal their Medicare numbers, and Reggie’s social security number, by telling one lie – she worked for Medicare. Everyone in the consumer protection field expected these kinds of calls with the rollout this year of new Medicare numbers. Just remember, Medicare will not call you. Period. Expect a letter from them about any issues that come up. FAKE VETERANS CHARITIES The Iowa Attorney General announced on July 19, 2018, his office joined efforts by the Federal Trade Commission and authorities from all forty-nine other states in an initiative to curtail veterans-related charity fraud. The attorney general’s media release warns us of organizations with “sympathetic-sounding names”, soliciting donations on behalf of disabled veterans, homeless veterans, unemployed veterans, or veterans suffering from mental health issues. These charities use online marketing, telemarketing, direct mail, door to door, and booths at retail locations, to raise money. The crooked ones raise money, and use none or almost none of it to benefit veterans. Instead, the money is used to pay professional fundraisers, executive’s salaries, or simply stolen to finance the lifestyles of the charity’s organizers. The attorney general named several organizations his office took office against in recent months: • Healing Heroes Network • Help The Vets, Inc • Healing American Heroes • Veterans of America • Operation Troop Aid • Viet Now • Trauma Support Network • Veterans Relief Network Those are some pretty “sympathetic-sounding names” for sure. But don’t get taken in by the names. A couple of times every month, I get a visit from someone clutching a piece of mail from some vets’ organization, wondering if this charity is legitimate. These are charities which warrant a lot of scrutiny, if you want to support that cause. These are a few tips from the attorney general to use in your screening of vets’ charities, or any charity: • Ask how much of your donation will go to support the program the charity is pitching • Check if the charity is registered with the Iowa Secretary of State as a non-profit • Check their rating with Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or Wise Giving Alliance. • Ask for the charity’s website and physical location • Don’t pay with cash, gift card, or by wiring money, and consider paying with a credit card, which gives you the option to later dispute a payment Be very wary of charity solicitations involving veterans. There’s far too much fraud in this charity sector to take such a charity at face value. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

Major fiber optic outage effecting 911 calls

Employment Opportunity with Clinton County Communications

HOW TRUSTWORTHY ARE ONLINE PRODUCT REVIEWS? If you don’t do some shopping online, you are in a distinct minority in the United States. Surveys from the end of 2016 showed eighty percent of Americans shopped online. It’s a safe bet that number only climbed since then. A lot of online shoppers rely on, or at least consider, the online reviews displayed on the website for the particular product they are looking at. Well, how reliable do you think these reviews are? National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story this week on just this topic. The answer to the question is – it depends on who you ask. Amazon, a company whose name seems interchangeable with the phrase “online shopping”, told NPR less than one percent of reviews are fake. And by fake, I mean someone got paid to write a glowing review, true or not. Turns out there are sketchy marketplaces on the internet, where you can buy and sell reviews. These operate in private Facebook groups, or other work-sharing worksites, like Slack or specific forums on Reddit, a social news site. NPR interviewed several writers of fake reviews, including one teenager who admitted he makes $200 a month doing this. He reported he finds something he wants to review, connects with the seller through these shadowy methods, negotiates a price for the review, and then buys the item. Once he gets the merchandise, he waits a few days, and writes a five star review. The seller refunds his purchase price, and pays a commission for the review. Online retailers like Amazon know a lot of dishonest people are trying to game this system, and told NPR they employ sophisticated technological algorithms to root out the fake reviews. They also sue retailers who use Amazon to show fake reviews, in the last three years suing over 1000 sellers for buying fake reviews. Certain categories of products seem more likely to gather fake reviews. Computer accessories, small electronics, or cheaply made Chinese products especially. Many of these products are cheaply priced knock-offs for popular name brand items, like Apple iPhone chargers. Along with Amazon’s efforts to root out fake reviews, other websites, acting as outside auditors, developed their own algorithms to detect fake reviews. I tried out two of these websites, Fakespot and Reviewmeta. These websites allow a user, for free, to check out a webpage offering a reviewed product for sale. The results on both sites when I tested them, came back within five seconds, and showed me the probability of fake reviews. How do they make this calculation? Reviewmeta explains what they look at better than Fakespot, but essentially they look at language and behavior patterns in the reviews, and come up with a score. Fakespot and Reviewmeta think more than half the reviews on “certain popular products”, are fake. Here’s my advice on online reviews – as with pretty much everything else appearing on the internet, don’t take them at face value. Check other sources besides the user reviews appearing on the marketing website. CNET and Wirecutter are two to consider. Consumer Reports does an exhaustive testing of many products. But you many never find an outside review on many small articles, like a charging cable. You’ll need to use your head, and remember, most of the time, “you get what you pay for.” WESTERN UNION SETTLEMENT – STILL NOT TOO LATE TO APPLY FOR REFUND I keep bringing g up this topic, because it is one of the few opportunities around for scam victims to recover some of their stolen money. The US government sued Western Union for facilitating fraud, and won. Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to victims of fraud involving use of Western Union money transfers, from 2004 to 2017. The application deadline for filing claims was May 31, 2018. However, the settlement administrator will still accept claims after that deadline, but the claimant must understand, “claims filed late subject to review at a later date, at the sole discretion of the Dept of Justice”. In other words, if you file late, you go to the end of the line. But…you can still get in line. If you lost money in a scam involving Western Union, and did not file a claim, get hold of me, and we can set a claim in motion. The Iowa Attorney General reported Iowans filed over $11 million in claims from 2139 people. One person filed a claim for $500,000 lost over a ten year time span by a victim who kept sending money to pay fees associated with claiming an inheritance from Nigeria. SCAM TRENDS For several years, thousands of us in this area received robo-calls telling us to contact the IRS because of tax evasion. Those calls are still going out, but I’m hearing of a wrinkle in the threats. Several folks reported calls in which the caller claims the call is from the Social Security Administration, and the caller claims fraud was detected “on the last account with your last four numbers”. This information is accompanied with threats of arrest if you don’t call immediately. It’s a scam, just like those calls claiming to come from the IRS. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

RULES OF THE ROAD By following this simple rule, you can help save lives, avoid receiving a traffic ticket and prevent the potential loss of your driver’s license. Iowa law requires motorists to: Yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights or giving an audible signal by moving over to the right, stopping and waiting until the vehicle has passed before proceeding. (Iowa Code section 321.324) Please LIKE and SHARE this post to help us save lives.

The Clinton County Sheriff's Office would like to congratulate two of our own! Correctional Officers Tricia Edwards and Hailey Hall received the Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc. Lifesaving Award for their role in performing an exceptional act during an emergency. As a result of their actions during this emergency, a human life was saved! Congratulations!!

Recently, there have been multiple reports of counterfeit money in the area. Money has multiple unique characteristics to help you identify legitimate money, including watermarks and a security thread, among others. Please do not rely solely on counterfeit markers to identify counterfeit bills, as bills may have been washed and re-printed as a larger denomination and counterfeit markers may falsely identify newer bills as counterfeit. Please use this guide from the Secret Service to assist you in identifying legitimate money. Please keep in mind, older currency may vary slightly in appearance from current bill series. If you believe you have received a counterfeit bill, please contact the Sheriff’s Office at (563) 242-9211 to make a report.

CHECK OUT HOME REPAIR CONTRACTOR BEFORE YOU HIRE ONE The Iowa Attorney General on June 1st, 2018, released news of a settlement involving a home-repair contractor in the DesMoines area, requiring that contractor to refund almost $130,000 to ten customers. The contractor, Joshua Auten, did business under a couple of names. His business model seems to have been to take advance payments for home-repair jobs, and then never did any work. And that is the most common complaint I get regarding contractors. People tell me they hire a contractor, pay half the bid, and nothing happens, or maybe they paid the contractor a down payment, he dropped off some materials, and then – nothing. The news release from the attorney general about this settlement also offered a lot of advice on how to hire a contractor, and avoid this kind of problem. I’ll share some of these tips. • Check out the contractor. Besides local references, check and see if the contractor is registered with the Iowa Division of Labor. You can do this online at www.iowadivisionoflabor.gov/contractor registration, or call 800-562-4692. If you’re wondering if the contractor’s ever been sued, or sued someone else, you can check that out at Iowa Courts Online. The Better Business Bureau, or the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926 can tell you about complaints on the contractor. • Get several estimates, in writing • Forget about an oral agreement with the contractor. Get an agreement in writing. That agreement should set forth in detail the scope of the work, the start and completion dates, consequences of missing those dates, and the responsibility of securing permits • Ask to see the contractor’s liability insurance certificate • Don’t pay large sums in advance. Some contractors want half up front, for “materials”. If so, make the check out directly to the supplier, or make the check out to both the supplier and contractor. • Insist on a mechanic’s lien waiver. This will come in handy in case the contractor doesn’t pay sub-contractors, or materials suppliers, and they start looking for someone to sue • Remember, in most cases, you have three days to cancel any contract signed at your house. If you get resistance from a contractor on providing these things, that’s a good sign to look for someone else. MORE DOOR TO DOOR PEDDLERS I wrote about the cable TV salesman in the Dewitt area in my last column. Since then, I received complaints from Camanche residents on the same topic. And this week, I received a complaint of a crew in Clinton offering free carpet cleaning as part of a “one-day promotion”. The Clinton City Clerk told me, this crew did not apply for a peddler’s permit. I also received reports of a peddler selling children’s educational books door to door in Clinton. In this case, that peddler did obtain a Clinton city permit. She asked for an application for a Dewitt and Camanche permits, but never returned the applications. My first rule about peddlers is, if you don’t have a permit, you failed the test, and I don’t need to know any more about you. If you encounter peddlers in your neighborhood, I encourage you to contact your local police and get them checked out. THE EVOLVING TECH SUPPORT SCAM I’ve used this column on many occasions to write about those folks who call and want to fix our computers, or whose phone number we see displayed as a “help” number on pop-up displays on computers warning of viruses, intrusions, or hacking. These are always scammers. Always. But what’s becoming clear to me is many folks fell for this scam months or years ago, and never realized it. Perhaps they received a message through a pop-up, or got a phone call, and subscribed for some “security protection”, charging their credit card, or sending off a check. Now, after this passage of time, the scammers re-contact their victims, and offer some more high-powered version of their services. The latest example comes from a Sabula woman who called me this week on another issue. As we talked, she mentioned someone hacked her computer. I asked some questions about that, and learned the woman paid $800 over a year ago for “protection”. A week ago, she received a follow-up call from these tech support types, and offered her a “lifetime package for any device” for $4000, which the woman paid for with her credit card. We’re working now to get that claim reversed. Did you subscribe to or pay for some service relating to your computer after getting a call or a warning on a pop-up display on your computer? If you did, it’s likely you were already scammed, and are getting teed up for another scam. If you did sign up for a service offered in this manner, get hold of me and we can check further. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

DOOR TO DOOR PEDDLERS AND CABLE TV In my last column, I reported on complaints I received on phony cable TV calls. A number of people contacted me, telling me someone claiming to work for DISH wanted to sell them an “upgrade” engineered to prevent or minimize service interruptions due to storms or heavy rainfall. The caller quoted $160 as the cost of the upgrade, and wanted payment sent by check to a post office box in Brooklyn, New York. As everyone soon discovered, this was a complete hoax. DISH did not endorse or authorize this promotion. A Dewitt woman alerted me last week, this scam continues, with just a little variation. The Dewitt caller reported receiving a visit from a door to door salesman just before sunset. The salesman delivered the same pitch in person, offering an upgrade to prevent storm outages. The salesman was described as a younger man wearing a shirt displaying a Direct TV logo, but displaying no further identification. He wanted to schedule a follow-up visit, but the Dewitt woman felt uncomfortable with the whole thing, and declined the offer. This situation gives me an opening to write about door to door peddlers again. Those folk become much more active in the spring and summer months. In past years, they’ve offered cable TV packages, frozen meat, driveway sealing, and cleaning products, just to name a few. We need to be extremely wary of people showing up at the doorstep wanting to sell something. This practice is so full of fraud, Clinton County and the incorporated cities of Clinton, Dewitt, and Camanche, require door to door peddlers to get licenses before conducting business. The licensing is our first line of defense against cheating door to door peddlers. If you get a visit from such a peddler, ask immediately to see their city or county license. No license – slam the door shut. Don’t listen to any excuses, like “our application is pending.” If the peddler lacks a license, they flunked the first honesty test, and you don’t need to hear any more. To date, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office issued exactly zero licenses for peddlers. I contacted the Dewitt city clerk on the Direct TV salesman. The clerk told me, Dewitt issued no licenses to Direct TV sales people. Several state laws in Iowa govern the practices of door to door sales. I consider the most important of these state laws to be the requirement that door to door vendors give each customer a three day right of cancellation, and furnish the customer with a written document detailing that right of cancellation. If you get a visit from a door to door peddler, your best course of action is to turn them away. But if you don’t see a permit, also contact your law enforcement agency, and ask them to check out the sales people. Door to door peddlers, most of who are transient and work across the country, don’t want to spend time in an area where law enforcement is checking on them all the time. OTHER SCAMS I received two calls this week from folks who told me someone called them, claiming to work for a Texas sheriff’s office, warning them a warrant issued for their arrest on drug trafficking charges. The caller also claimed the Social Security numbers of those receiving the calls, were “blacklisted” whatever that means. The message encouraged the recipient to call for further information. I called the number provided, and heard a message, delivered in imperfect and accented English, telling me I reached the Social Security Administration. I doubt it. If you get such a call, don’t respond in any way. Ignore the call. Many people in the last month reported calls telling them of computer problems, and wanting remote access to their computer to make fixes. They sound quite persuasive to their victims. Don’t fall for this. Anyone calling and asking anything about your computer is a scammer – period. CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211 extension 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

The deadline to submit an application for Deputy Sheriff is next Monday, June 4, 2018 by 4 PM. See further details for testing date and details.