Community Watch

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Much like the citizens we serve, law enforcement personnel take crimes during the holiday season just a little bit harder than at other times. It’s supposed to be a season of good cheer, of generosity and giving, but sadly, thieves know this and do their best to turn it to their advantage.

And these days, thieves can reach deep into your purse or billfold from miles, even continents, away. A file landed on my desk last week that demonstrates just how insidious internet crimes can be, and fortunately, the intended victim saw the “too good to be true” proposal for what it was and notified the sheriff’s office before falling victim.

In this one, a person claiming to be from a U.S. city made an online purchase from this person, and mailed a cashier’s check for over four times the amount the item sold for, telling the seller he was unsure of shipping or other fees, and asking them to deduct the purchase price and any fees and refund the rest.

Had the seller fallen for it, being a good person trying to ensure a satisfied customer, and one pressed in this time of giving to boot, he would have immediately shipped the item in time to go under the tree, along with the refund for the over payment.

Fortunately the eBay seller realized the cashier’s check was on a fake account, not only would it have been too late; but he would have learned that it would be almost impossible to recover his loss or know where it ended up if he had deposited the check and sent the money.

It was a fraud scheme that we hear about too often and a classic setup — if he had sent the package or the refund it could have ended up in who knows what part of the world.

Many, hopefully most, victims targeted by such scams are savvy enough to recognize the game, but enough still fall victim that the thieves still profit – and unfortunately, many of those taken in are the most vulnerable; the elderly, the mentally ill, those who can’t quite look out for themselves.

That’s one of the reasons I chose to call this column “Community Watch.” We all play a role, but everything works best when we all look out for one another, and not just in looking out the window to see who’s in that strange car at the neighbor’s.

By visiting with our elders and those less fortunate, we can learn of “exciting offers” they may be considering, and encourage them not to fall victim.

And while internet scams are a relatively new phenomena, please don’t forget to take measures to protect yourself from nostalgic, old-fashioned crime – lock your vehicle when you’re out Christmas shopping, don’t leave packages where they can be easily seen. If you can’t lock them in the trunk, stow them on the floorboards, and throw a blanket or coats over them so.

When expecting parcels in the mail, collect them from the mailbox or your porch as soon as possible after delivery. Realize that there are those among us who would rather take than earn, and use common sense to make it harder for them to take what’s yours. If it looks like work, many times a thief will go elsewhere.

I’d also like to take a moment to reflect on how blessed we all are to have such dedicated and hardworking first responders.

On Dec. 2, I responded along with many others to a report of a Sandpoint boy badly injured in a dirt bike accident at the ORV Park in Highland Flats. I watched as our Boundary Ambulance crew worked to stabilize him and prepare him for transport, and I reflected on how much EMS in our county has changed and evolved since I served as an EMT several years ago.

While I haven’t heard how he did after our advanced EMTs and paramedics transported him to Coeur d’Alene, I do know that, because of the efforts and high level of training of those who responded to the call, that young man and those who love him were given a chance they likely would not have had just a few years ago.

On behalf of all the personnel who protect and serve you as emergency responders in Boundary County, I wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas!

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