By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Police are reminding residents that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The department recently received a report of an attempted scam.
In this scam, a postcard was sent to a resident stating, “Great News! You are eligible to receive $100 in gift savings good at Wal Mart or Target! Call toll free now for details 1-866-316-4203. Call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” The postcard also provided a claim number.
“The resident said she called and they wanted her debit or credit card information to debit her $4.95 before she would be awarded the $100. It’s a total scam,” Officer Allan Johnson said.
Residents who receive such correspondence should throw the card away and not provide any unknown entity personal information, such as a social security number, credit or debit card number, driver’s license number or other personal information.
Fraud program saves
In a somewhat related matter, large steps are being taken to address welfare fraud among a five-county partnership that includes Houston County. In just seven months this program has resulted in more than $600,000 in savings in welfare dollars that would have otherwise gone to unqualified individuals.
The program began in June 2013 when social service directors and the sheriffs from Goodhue, Winona, Fillmore, Houston and Wabasha counties agreed to come up with a new plan for working welfare fraud cases. During the previous 10 years, the cases had been handled by a single civilian, but social services directors decided it should be given back to law enforcement, where it was handled years ago.
The partnership secured enough funds to create one position and housed the investigator in Wabasha County.
“An experienced detective was assigned the task and started working with human services in each of the five counties,” Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsh said.
As of Jan. 1, 2014, the detective has worked on more than 200 cases, some of which included people that were not reporting income.
“We believe that we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s been going on. Our detective has a huge area to cover and is relying a lot on information that he receives from the public as well as from the financial workers in each of the counties that he is working. Law enforcement is excited to be a part of the system again,” Bartsh said.
People wishing to report possible welfare fraud can contact Detective Mike Lavigne directly at 651-564-0122 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also an anonymous online tip option at http://crimestoppersmn.org.
“We remain compassionate to those who need some assistance. This program and our detective’s mission is to stop those abusing the system,” Bartsh said.