Buyer beware: phone scammers are calling |

Buyer beware: phone scammers are calling

Chad Abraham

When a woman called Allan Ehrlich last week and told him that he had been awarded one of 1 million $8,000 grants from the U.S. government, he was more than a bit skeptical.Speaking quietly and quickly in an Indian or Pakistani accent, the woman told him that he was “one of the lucky ones who had been selected to receive the grant. She went on and on: ‘$8,000, you don’t have to pay any taxes and you can use it for whatever you want,'” said Ehrlich, who lives near Snowmass Canyon.He said he played along, asking about the next step in the scam. When she told Ehrlich to leave his Social Security and bank account numbers and other personal information on a voice-mail box, he hung up.”I don’t know how she got our number. She knew my name and my wife’s name,” Ehrlich said. “I don’t know whether it was from a new phone listing or how they get numbers.”They come at you in a lot of different ways.”One way, said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Investigator Ron Ryan, is through the Internet.”Now that the classified ads from most papers are also on the Internet, it’s very easy for somebody in another country to look at those, see an area like Aspen and then exploit that,” he said. “It gives [the suspects] a name and a number of who to contact.”One other attempt to scam people over the phone was reported to police recently, Ryan said.Tracking down suspects in phone scams is not easy. Ehrlich checked his phone records but said the woman’s number came up as “unknown.””With calling cards and other technology, it gets more and more difficult to actually find where a call originated from,” Ryan said.If contacted by a suspected scam artist, residents need to put images of easy money out of their head and use common sense.”If someone is asking you to send them money, you have to question them and know exactly who you’re sending it to and why you’re sending it to them,” Ryan said. “Even if you think you have a valid check in your hand from them, who knows ultimately if there’s any money in their account.”The adage of ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ is the best rule to follow.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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