Capt. Alan Freeman of the Mount Airy Police Department is accustomed to investigating various Internet and other cyber scams — not having his name attached to one.
Yet that’s what has occurred with a recent campaign deemed to be fraudulent.
It involves the use of Freeman’s email address at the police station (firstname.lastname@example.org) in an effort to scam individuals out of money.
Multiple local residents have received that message, but Freeman does not know how many for sure.
A copy of it makes it appear the email was sent by Freeman. The message contains an invoice number and informs the recipient that an ACH payment has been made, apparently in the receiver’s name. ACH is a banking term that stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a network used for electronic payments and money transfers.
The email’s wording indicates that the person should wait one to two business days for the bank to process the matter and also refers the recipient to a website for more payment details. Freeman said he found that the hyperlinked website referred to in the invoice has been taken down, probably due to being linked to fraudulent activity.
He said a case of email “spoofing” is involved, the forgery of an email header so that a message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source. Email spoofing is a tactic used in “phishing” and spam campaigns because people are more likely to open an email when they think it has been sent by a legitimate source, “in this case me,” Freeman added.
The police captain says when people are told that they have been issued such a payment, it is actually a scheme to access their bank accounts or other information and ultimately steal money from those individuals. Sometimes such schemes require the victim to pay a fee up front in order to receive a supposed payment.
“It looks like they’re saying, ‘we’ve got an invoice for you and you have to pay a certain amount of money,’” Freeman said of the recent email.
One local resident who received it went to their bank. “And they called me up,” he said of the bank.
Revenge possible motive
Capt. Freeman isn’t exactly sure why the scammers chose to use his email address, but has a pretty good idea. He has spearheaded investigations of various scams targeting local residents on behalf of the police department, and readily admits being pretty adamant in doing so over the years.
“I figure that during my career I have made some scammers upset with me when I called them and told them what I thought of them,” he explained regarding fraudulent emails, many of which come from overseas and are extremely difficult to trace.
“I’ve been cussed left and right and apparently made some of them mad,” Freeman said of the apparent revenge motive.
As he continues to probe the latest email scheme, the city police official has some simple advice for any local residents who receive the email in question:
“Delete it is what you need to do,” he said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.