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NEW DURHAM— Area residents are warned to remain vigilant about requests for help, wire transfers or loans via email.
Recently, an emailthat claimed to be from David Bickford, a selectman and a state representative, requested money to help him get out of the Ukraine after a mugger took his money and credit cards during a business trip.
"I really hope you get this fast. i could not inform anyone about my trip, because it was impromptu. i had to be in Lviv, Ukraine for a program," according to the email.
While Bickford could not be reached for comment, he was seen by fellow town officials Monday evening.
According to the email, Bickford asked for a "loan" to help him pay for hotel expenses — which was holding up his departure. It stressed how he would repay the person for the assistance.
"Luckily for me, i still have my passports with me. Now, my passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when i make payment," according to the email.
"I have made contact with my bank for a wire to me down here but i was told it would take 3-5 working days to access funds in my account, the bad news is our flight will be leaving very soon but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel management won't let us leave until we settle the bills," according to the email. "We need your help with a LOAN financially and we promise to make the refund once we get back home, you are my last resort and hope, Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it's the only way you can get to me," according to the email.
This is a new twist to common scamsthat involve a relative — such as a grandchild — who needs money after being injured in an accident or arrested, according to Joan Bissonnette, paralegal with the state Attorney General's Consumer Protection Bureau.
"The scenario changes, but it's usually the same," Bissonnette said, adding new scams draw on current events — like flooding, tornados.
"The urgency of the matter is a tell-tale signal," Bissonnette said, adding people should always verify the person's whereabouts.
Bissonnette said many scams have grammatical or spelling issues because they may have been written by someone who learned English as a second language.
While some scams include realistic contact information, which could be different by a digit or letter, she warned residents not to respond.
Bissonnette said area residents should always be wary of wiring money — which is "usually a red flag."
"More than likely, once you send the money — it's gone," Bissonnette said, adding it's very hard to recover the funds, which are quickly withdrawn.
Bissonnette said residents with questions about scams or other activities can always contact the state's Consumer Protection Hotline at 271-3641.