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Too Minnesota Nice? MN is Top State Targeted by Scammers

PHOTO: Peggy Hiestand-Harri and Rep. Joe Atkins at introduction of the bill to cut down on fraudulent wire transfers of money. Harri's mother was scammed out of $47,000. CREDIT: AARP MN
PHOTO: Peggy Hiestand-Harri and Rep. Joe Atkins at introduction of the bill to cut down on fraudulent wire transfers of money. Harri's mother was scammed out of $47,000. CREDIT: AARP MN
May 20, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As Minnesota lawmakers wrap up their 2013 session, one of the new statutes that has emerged aims to prevent seniors and others from being scammed through wire transfers of money.

According to DFL Rep. Joe Atkins, for one thing, money transfers to locations other than the original destination are not allowed.

"If your money gets sent someplace and is being picked up or attempted to be picked up in a place other than where you sent it, you would get notification," he reported. "This is a key feature in these scams. They never pick up the money where you sent it, because they know that they could get caught."

The other part of the new law, which is supported by consumer groups such as AARP and will take effect August 1, is the development of a "do not send" list. That will allow people to sign up themselves and their elderly relatives, so they are not allowed to wire-transfer funds.

One woman who knows all too well how sophisticated scammers can be these days is Peggy Hiestand-Harri of Duluth. Her mother forked over $47,000, mostly from credit card advances, after being told she had won millions and a new car in a lottery.

"She's talking to a Lee Miller, border patrol for car stamps, a lawyer by the name of John Lee, Bank of America Senior President Mr. Peter Brown, and then she talked to the U.S. Marshal from Washington, D.C. And she's got routing numbers and account numbers, and I could see how she could think this car is coming."

Harri said her mother had to declare bankruptcy, and since then she has been withdrawn, and her mental and physical health have both deteriorated rapidly.

That story is hardly unique. Rep. Atkins notes that in these cases, when the money is gone, odds of recovery or an arrest are minimal, and currently Minnesota is the top fraud target in the nation.

"And I don't know what it is about Minnesotans, but we're just awfully nice people," the lawmaker declared. "Scammers can keep folks on the (phone) line a little longer than most and they suck them in and the next thing you know, folks are wiring hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to scam artists."

Last year alone, there were over 100,000 scam victims in Minnesota, with losses estimated around $5 million, although it is said to be one of the most under-reported crimes.

More information is at bit.ly/109XRQ6.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN