06-10-03: Area businesses being scammed
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
The Daily Standard
The Mercer County Sheriff's Office is investigating a scam apparently
directed at family-owned businesses. Two incidents have been reported in the county thus
far, although investigators believe additional contacts have been or could be made.
The first incident occurred three weeks ago when a man claiming to be
from London, England, contacted an unidentified business owner in the Celina area.
The caller wished to purchase 30 units of technology-related equipment
at $500 each. When the businessman questioned export laws, the caller suggested sending
the shipment to a branch office in Houston, Texas, and supplied a credit card.
The local businessman sent the equipment to Texas and later learned the
credit card number was no good. The local person then contacted postal authorities in
Houston in regard to holding the shipment, but learned it had been picked up the previous
The second incident took place Saturday afternoon when a caller
claiming to be from the African country of Toga contacted Tom Krick of Bob's AudioVideo
and Appliances, 910 S. Sugar St. The man wished to purchase 10 DVD players along with some
Krick also questioned export rules and was told the shipment could be
sent to a business associate in Toledo. The caller provided a credit card number, but
Krick stopped the transaction at that point and alerted authorities.
Detectives Pat Elking and Kip Wright are handling the ensuing
investigation. Elking spoke with Houston law enforcement officers who expressed an
interest in following up on their end. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking
into the matter, according to Wright.
Authorities in Bryan contacted the sheriff's office Monday afternoon
wanting to compare notes regarding an incident that happened there in recent days.
"We have not determined whether these are random cases or part of
something bigger," Wright told The Daily Standard. "We definitely will be
checking with other jurisdictions."
The callers thus far have made contact toward the end of the business
day and requested to speak with the owner/manager. They seem interested in
technology-related equipment like DVD players and computer components.
Wright suggests business owners be suspicious regarding large orders
from people they have not done business with previously or callers claiming to be from
Pam Buschur, executive director of the Celina-Mercer County Chamber of
Commerce, plans to fax warnings to the 600-plus members warning them about the scam.
"Some crimes happen and you look for clues," Wright said.
"This is the time to put some good crime prevention into action."
Any business owners who received similar calls should contact the
detectives at the sheriff's office, 419-586-7724
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