Police Departments can do little to retrieve money from Financial Fraudsters

By KBJR News 1

June 6, 2014 Updated Jun 6, 2014 at 8:44 PM CDT

Chisholm, Minn. (NNCNow.com) --- Like most small towns in the United States, Chisholm, Minnesota is no stranger to scammers preying on the elderly.

"These people do their research and they target the elderly," Chisholm Chief of Police Vern Manner said.

Manner says reports of phone scams increase during certain times of the year, averaging two or three reports a week in his town of 5,000 people.

Manner adds that while the closeness of the Chisholm community helps to decrease cases of phone scams, the danger is still out there.

"What they did was they called my mom and got to know her," Peggy Hiestand-Harri said.

Hiestand-Harri's elderly mother was scammed out of $47,000 from a fraud organization in Jamaica. Her mother wired cash after she was convinced she had won $2.5 million and Mercedes Benz.

"She was a victim. She is embarrassed about it. She feels like she was really stupid,” Hiestand-Harri said. “She wasn't stupid. These people know exactly what they are doing. They are trained."

When Hiestand-Harri's brother tried to talk to the scammers he was threatened over the phone.

"They said they were going to come and kill him," Hiestand-Harri said.

Federal authorities frequently decline to investigate cases that involve less than $100,000. A state police detective looked at Hiestand-Harri's mom's case, but was unable to get her money back.

"There were several phone calls over a period of time to gain that trust. They have turned it into an art form on how to scam people out of money," Manner said.

At the local level, authorities often can do little to recover money lost because many phone scam organizations are based out of foreign countries.

It is also expensive for police departments to pursue the sheer volume of phone scam cases that are reported.

"You have to track back where it came from, who the other person on the other line was,” Manner said. “If it is being rerouted or numbers coming from different place, trying to find the other person on the line is very difficult."

Chief Manner said that when scammers are caught, they often claim money was given to them freely.

Experts say once you become a victim of a phone scam, it is very difficult to get your money back.

Nick Minock