Taking it personal

For Fredonia resident Patrick Sissem, getting scammed is personal.

Sissem was recently swindled out of a couple thousand dollars after someone asked to purchase a trailer he was selling for more than what he was asking for it.

It all started when Sissem posted an advertisement on his Facebook profile to sell his trailer for $500. Soon afterward, a stranger named “Corey” texted Sissem and said he had seen the trailer online and wanted to purchase it for $600.

Sissem said he was never able to talk to Corey, who said he was hearing impaired and could not talk over the phone.

Several days later, Corey sent Sissem a check for $2,250.

“As soon as I saw that check, I texted him back asking, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because I bought other items, so I want you to take out the $600 for yourself, plus $40 for gas to go to Western Union.’ He was asking me to send the remainder of the money to Charles Kimbrell, whom he said was his shipper in North Carolina,” Sissem said.

The check seemed authentic once Sissem examined it. It was from Fleming & Company LLC in Rochester, Pa. Sissem’s information was properly on the check and the phone number on it seemed legitimate.

“You can call that number up any time you want, but you will always get a woman saying to leave a message and she’ll get back to you,” he said. “No one picks up.”

Sissem went to the bank and cashed the check. He had $1,610 left over, which was the money (plus fees) Corey asked him to send to Kimbrell via Western Union. After wiring it, he sent Corey the control number at his request, which is the number needed to pick up wired money. Corey alleged he was going to send the control number to Kimbrell.

Later on, Corey asked Sissem to wire him a bit more money. The Fredonia man became suspicious and found out Fleming & Co. was actually an auctioneering firm in Florida.

“The guy there told me he gets calls five or six times a week asking about this company and he told me that was a fraudulent company with a closed bank account that sent me that check,” Sissem said. “By then, the damage was done and I had lost all my savings … because we didn’t put a hold on the check and it took all the savings to cover it.”

Sissem was told by Western Union that his money was wired to a store in Statesville, N.C., where someone picked it up. However, other organizations have been less than helpful toward Sissem, who said he has called a number of places.

“I’ve called everybody under the sun regarding this matter and nobody seems to want to pay attention,” he said. “I’ve called Washington, Obama’s call center, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Hotline, the FBI, the local news stations, everyone. If anyone needs a phone number, I probably have it!”

Peggy Penders Tronolone, public relations and marketing director of the Better Business Bureau in Upstate New York, said overpayment scams happen often. She advised the first tip-off is when an offer is proposed for well over the asking price of an item.

“When the check well-exceeds even that amount, the person calls, very apologetic, asking if the extra funds can be returned. What happens there is the check the person received is phony, so the consumer deposits the check thinking its good and days or weeks later, the consumer finds out it was phony. So, not only are they out that money, but they’re out money that was spent against the account. They wired back money that doesn’t exist, so they spent the money twice.”

Tronolone said people should be aware that once money has been wired, it is usually gone.

“It’s as if you’ve given someone cash,” she said. “You have to make sure you absolutely know who is on the other end of the line. Also, if you have received some money, you should wait for those checks to actually clear in the account. While phony checks are floating around all the time, some actually have legitimate bank routing numbers on them and the bank tellers can’t ask you how you came to possess the check.”

A major break in Sissem’s case came when the North Carolina State Police told him they have a man named Charles Kimbrell after reviewing security footage at the Statesville store.

“They knew of him and they wanted me to send everything I had to the investigator,” he said. “After I sent everything, they called and said they have more than enough on this guy and he will be charged … by the district attorney.”

Although an arrest was made, Sissem is far from relieved. He has continued to receive text messages from someone at a different number, allegedly claiming to be Corey and employing the same tactics used the first time around.

“I’m going to play it out and give the texts to the state police to give them some more evidence against this guy. Hopefully they can use the texts to trace where he is or something,” Sissem said. “I’m going to catch this guy before he scams somebody else. I don’t know how many people are involved in this scam, (but) … a crime is a crime. How would you feel if it happened to you?”

To learn more about how to protect yourself from scams, go to www.bbb.org/scam-stopper.

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