It's always refreshing when coworkers reach out to ask if the Public Affairs Office can get something "out there" for them.  Two weeks ago, an Officer contacted The Public Affairs for help on a case.  Initially, he didn't think his cases would be big enough to warrant a news release, or that no one would really be interested.  Police Officers and Detectives are so used to seeing cases that they sometimes forget that for the general public who doesn't see this stuff day in and day out, it's interesting and the added bonus is that it may help us ID a suspect.  So, when he said that it was a credit card fraud case with photos of the suspect, we said, "Send it."

One case turned into two and two into three in the matter of only a few minutes and all of them were credit card fraud cases!   Seeing this, we threw on a catchy "FRAUD FRIDAY" label, hoping it would grab the readers' attention online and we pushed the stories out there to the News, and on Social Media to great response.  "FRAUD FRIDAY" inadvertently became a "thing."  

We spoke with Detective Sergeant David Gleason who heads-up our Financial Crimes Unit in our Investigative Services Bureau.  Fraud cases of all types- online scams, identity theft, credit card fraud, etc., are the fastest growing segment of crimes we are seeing here at the Cape Coral Police Department and, as it turns out, it's a nationwide trend.  So, we asked him to give some tips that citizens should know- things to watch out for, things to do, things to not do.  

Sergeant Gleason gave us so much information that we decided to do a blog series to help educate and inform you on how to avoid being scammed.  Over the next few weeks, you'll see "FRAUD FRIDAY" posts on a variety of fraud-related topics.  

This week we are covering the classic phone, e-mail, and postal scams.  Regardless of the scam, they all operate using one or more of some basic principles:

  • Creating a sense of urgency for you to act (without thinking)
  • Offering something for nothing
  • Use of authority
  • Threats
  • Emotional appeal (charity, etc.)

If you receive an unsolicited e-mail, telephone call or postal mail advising you:

  • You’ve been selected as a Mystery Shopper (Walmart, etc.);
  • You’ve won a prize and or inheritance;
  • Someone unknown to you, in a far away location needs help and is urgently depending upon your kindness/money;
  • A business opportunity to make a large sum of money by repackaging and re-shipping items that get delivered to your home;
  • A convenience service requiring you cash a check delivered to your home and then re-issue checks from your own account & mail them to other locations allowing you to keep a portion;
  • Any contact where a person by phone, email, or postal mail asks you to transfer money onto a gift card (Green Dot, Visa Vanilla, etc.) and then remotely provide them the card numbers;
  • Any contact where a person by phone, email or postal mail asks you to send them money via Western Union;
  • Any contact with a person over the telephone or the internet claiming to be a person of authority, i.e. IRS, FBI, or any other Policing entity demanding financial payment to avoid a criminal prosecution against you;

Assume that these are a scam and cease contact with the entity – Hanging up is ALWAYS your option! 

Never be pressured into providing money to an entity.  Legitimate salespeople, services, and public safety personnel do not operate in this manner.

When in doubt,  call or come by the Cape Coral Police Department or perhaps even a trusted banking employee to ask for assistance in determining the validity of any suspicious contacts.  It is always, always, ALWAYS safer to verify with a fraud expert prior to sending money to one of the above scenarios, no matter how convincing they sound.

NEXT:  Staying Safe on Craigslist

About the Author:

Det. Sergeant Dana Coston is a 18 year law enforcement veteran who is assigned to the Office of the Chief of Police. He is the Public Affairs Officer for the Cape Coral Police Department.  He also serves as the Department's Webmaster and Social Media Manager, testing and evaluating platforms and technologies for use in the Cape Coral Police Department Social Media Program.

Det. Sergeant Coston previously served as a Patrol Officer, School Resource Officer, Detective assigned to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Patrol Sergeant, and Professional Standards Bureau Sergeant where he oversaw Personnel, Training, and Internal Affairs.  He is an instructor for the Cape Coral Police Department in the areas of baton, firearms, and Media Relations, and has instructed all over SW Florida on gang identification and prevention, and the application of Social Media in Law Enforcement.

Det. Sergeant Coston holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History from Emory University. He is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners and the National Information Officers Association.  He is a certified Gang Specialist, FBI Domestic Human Intelligence Collector, and was an adjunct instructor to the FBI Academy teaching human source recruitment.

Guest Contributor:

Sergeant David Gleason Head Shot.jpg

Detective Sergeant David Gleason is a 15 year veteran of the Cape Coral Police Department.  He began his career at the Cape Coral Police Department at the age of 23 and worked as a Patrol Officer until being promoted to Detective in 2005 where he worked as a Property Crimes Detective in the Investigative Services Bureau.

A year later, Det. Sergeant Gleason was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and returned to the Patrol Bureau as a night time supervisor, until 2009 when he was assigned to supervise the Department’s Special Operations Bureau.  There he oversaw the Department's Daytime Traffic Unit, Rotational Towing Program, and Special Events Planning.

After serving 2 years in the Special Operations Bureau, Sergeant Gleason returned to Patrol as a day time supervisor.  Recently, in the fall of 2014 Sergeant Gleason was selected to supervise the Department’s White Collar Fraud and Special Intelligence units where he now oversees numerous Detectives and two Crime Analysts.