Crimewatch with Walt Candelari
IT SEEMS as if there has been a significant paradigm shift in several major businesses in the past several years as to how they relate to their customers. From the moment I walked into a hospital on one occasion, every employee I met greeted me in a positive manner and more than one asked if they could help me. Not only were they being helpful but they were also, indirectly, letting me know that I had been seen.
In a car dealership, I was greeted again in a very positive manner and the employees spent time finding out what it was that I wanted and not what they wanted to sell me. Again, not only were they being helpful but I was aware that they could put a name to my face and I could be identified.
In both instances, I seemed to be treated as an individual about whom they cared and not just patient number 243 or customer Wotsisname. It was refreshing.
Back at home, I have been among neighbors watching a car coming down the block slowly as if looking for an address. More often than not, at least one of us will step to the street and see if we can help the motorist.
In that moment of contact, we see who is in the vehicle, what kind it is, sometimes note its license number and always let the driver know that he or she has been seen. We have also learned never to step in front of the car, just in case the driver has no intention of stopping.
Most drivers are innocently going about their business but there are many ways to scam you and care is always a wise precaution. This is also the case with scams that arrive by phone call or e-mail message.
There are often reports of someone calling supposedly from the IRS and saying you or your attorney must call a number they give you. This has been reported to the IRS but, if you receive a similar call, please report it by calling 1-800-366-4484 or going online to FTC.gov/scam-alerts.
The phony “You missed jury duty and we have a warrant out for you” scam often makes the rounds. Be careful! These folks just want your money, so don’t give them your credit-card details thinking payment will avoid your arrest. Law-enforcement agencies don’t work that way.
And you thought it couldn’t get worse? Watch for the “funeral notification” e-mail scam, which appears to come from a real company and would appear to be an announcement of pending arrangements and a memorial service. There is no personal name attached and, when you open the message, a virus or malware is installed on your computer.
Again, when in doubt, look up the number of the named funeral home and call it. If the message is genuine, the staff will give you any details; if not, they will probably be quite interested in finding out if their company is being used in a scam.
If you receive unsolicited calls from companies offering services or products, do some research before doing business with them. In this region, for example, scammers will be out to sell you inferior materials and products to keep your house safe when hurricane season is in full swing. But, whatever time of year, always check with Houston Better Business Bureau when you are not familiar with a company that calls you out of the blue.
Finally, call your power company if someone comes around trying to sell you a lightning rod for your house at a shockingly hefty price and implies that they represent the company. They don’t.
Remember: Think, plan and execute crime-prevention design. Don’t be a crime victim.
Walt Candelari is a crime-prevention specialist and community-policing officer with Dickinson police department.