No faking at fraud classes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-City employees were introduced to the tricks of con artists Tuesday in fraud prevention classes.

Sgt. Tim Soronen, criminal investigator for the Demopolis Police Department, held the classes that began at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Demopolis University Center.

Although the class would be beneficial to the general public, attendees had to register for the course before coming.

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The officer said he didn’t want to give counterfeiting and scamming ideas to people who may put them to use.

Soronen spoke on Internet and lottery scams and how to spot counterfeit cash, licenses, identification cards, social security cards, checks and credit cards.

“Make your own judgment call,” Soronen told the crowd of local bank and gas station employees.

The officer’s presentation also included short videos.

The first one gave employees hints on how to identify a forged credit card and what to do if they receive one. The next showed examples of people getting caught in worker’s compensation scams. The last showed how to avoid Internet and lottery scams.

According to Soronen, one of the main ways to decrease scams is to check identification before completing transactions.

He also spoke on scams that are mainly directed toward elderly people. Although the scams can’t be discussed in detail, the basic message to the elderly is to never offer to give money, especially large sums, to people you don’t know.

Even if the person tells you they are a bank examiner or police investigator, neither will ever ask you to use your own money to catch a criminal.

Soronen also told attendees to be aware of Internet scams such as Internet auctions and inheritance schemes. He also told the crowd to stay away from foreign lottery mailings that say you can get a large sum of money if you send them a check or money order first.

Soronen said the number of fraud cases brought to the department has “drastically declined” since he noticed a need for the program three years ago.

“I’ve turned clerks into detectives,” he said. “I get so many phone calls for about two weeks after they attend the program, because they are suspicious of everyone. But it’s good. I’d rather them be over cautious than not.”

Soronen said they usually offer the class about once a year, but are attempting to have it more often.

For more information, contact Sgt. Tim Soronen at the Demopolis Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.