Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

County hires security consultant

Dec 06, 2017

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


The supervisors approved hiring a consultant Tuesday morning to assist the county with security upgrades in the county.

“This agreement is with RSG Design Inc.,” board chairman Richard Young said. “It’s with Shawn Grassfield from Cedar Rapids.”

A committee has contacted him about overseeing the cameras and card readers installed at the courthouse, the secondary roads building, Orchard Hill buidlings and at the sheriff’s office, Young said. The price for Grassfield’s consultant services is $10,000.

Young asked Washington County Attorney John Gish if he looked at the agreement. Gish said he did look at the agreement and was satisfied with it.

Supervisor Abe Miller asked if Grassfield already did an assessment for the county or would have to do an additional one.

“He’s already done an assessment and frankly has provided some services to us already,” Washington County auditor Dan Widmer said. “This just kind of firms everything up and states the expectations.”

Grassfield doesn’t sell cameras or card readers, Widmer added. He helps businesses find companies to purchase the equipment from.

“He does this consulting work for other businesses [and] schools,” Young added. “This is what he does.”

The agreement was approved unanimously by the supervisors.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Dec 06, 2017 11:59

Al Perales, left, of the Iowa Attorney General Office’s Consumer Protection Division speaks with local residents Janet Evertsen and Einar Olsen Tuesday at the Fairfield Senior Citizen Center.

Representatives of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office met with local residents Tuesday at the Fairfield Senior Citizen Center who came to them with consumer complaints.

Nathan Blake, Deputy Attorney General for Policy, and Al Perales, an investigator in the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, fielded questions from attendees and educated them about how to avoid scams.


Smart meters

The building was nearly full of people, many of them coming to speak about the possible installations of “smart meters” in Fairfield. A smart meter is a utility meter that communicates its usage with a central hub. Alliant Energy has proposed installing such meters in Fairfield in 2019.

Blake told the attendees that the Attorney General’s office was not the proper avenue for them to voice their complaints about smart meters. Instead, he directed them to the Iowa Utilities Board.

One of the attendees, Einar Olsen, said he and nearly everyone else attended the meeting to speak about smart meters. In fact, since so many people were there with the same concern, they held an impromptu meeting about smart meters. Olsen introduced Robert Palma, a Fairfield resident and engineer with knowledge of telecommunications and radio frequency, who addressed the crowd. Mayor Ed Malloy also spoke at the meeting.


Mobile office

The presence of Blake and Perales was part of a series of mobile office meetings Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has conducted in the past year. The outreach effort began last year when Miller traveled to Cedar Rapids and opened a temporary mobile office following a flood event. A Consumer Protection Division investigator provided flood victims with information on hiring a contractor, avoiding fraud, and the state’s price-gouging rule.

Perales said about five or six people talked to him Tuesday about consumer complaints unrelated to smart meters. One person told him about a texting scam, where the perpetrator took money from the victim’s bank account without consent.

Another man was contacted by people in New York who wired money to his account, and told him to use it to buy gift cards. The man ended up spending $66,000 on gift cards, but was never reimbursed for them. When he checked his bank statement again, the money the perpetrators had placed there was gone.

An all-too-common scam Perales heard about was a person who receives an unsolicited call supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service, informing them they owed more taxes than they paid last year. Perales said his office tries to educate the public about impostor scams like these, where the perpetrator pretends to be a family member or debt collector.

“They all have one goal: to gain your trust and steal your money,” he said.


Types of scams

Scammers con people out of money by appealing to their emotions, specifically their excitement, fear or pulling at their heartstrings. They often invent official sounding titles for themselves, complete with fake badge numbers.

“You might get a call from what looks on your caller ID to be from the IRS in Washington, D.C,,” Perales said, noting that scammers can even trick caller ID programs.

Some people have been conned through phone calls informing them they won the lottery, and need to divulge their bank account number to receive a wire transfer.

“Sometimes, the [perpetrators] will tell you to keep it a secret, since you’ve won a big prize,” Perales said.

In reality, this just helps them get away with the deed.

Perales mentioned a few other scams he’s come across. One was the jury duty scam, wherein someone pretending to be the local sheriff calls you to say you failed to report for jury duty, and if you don’t pay the fine, he’ll issue a warrant for your arrest. Another is the sweetheart scam, where the scammer pretends to be romantically interested in the victim.

“This one strikes me as the most evil,” Perales said. “Scammers target divorced or widowed people online. They claim to be working overseas. Sooner or later, they will ask for money.”

Perales said a victim of such a scam told him, “It felt so real in the moment, but now that I write it down, it seems so silly.”

This kind of scam that involves gaining a person’s trust over many interactions often starts with the perpetrator asking for small sums of money, then graduating to large sums.

“For every scam, if they get your money once, they’ll come up with a reason why you need to give more,” Perales said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I made a mistake and you actually owe more’ ... something like that.”

The elderly are often the target of scams. One ruse involves calling a victim, and when they pick up, the perpetrator answers, “Grandma, is that you?” Perales said the victim often guesses as to which grandchild it is, and the scammer plays along, pretending to be that person.

The scammer either claims to be stranded at an airport or has just been arrested and needs bail money. They’ll ask their “grandparent” not to tell Mom or Dad.

The internet is the source of many a scam. One of those involves a program called Team Viewer, a legitimate application that lets one person view another person’s computer screen and manipulate files on it. Scammers will get victims to initiate this program, claiming to help them with a computer problem, when in fact they’re using it to install a virus.


Tips to avoid scams

Perales gave a number of tips to avoid becoming the victim of a scam. They are:

1) Never wire money to people you don’t know;

2) Scammers ask for money whose transfer can’t be contested, such as debit card payments, checks, gift cards or prepaid VISA cards. Credit card charges, on the other hand, can be contested within a certain amount of time after the unauthorized purchase, so Perales recommends using those;

3) Never give out your Social Security number over the phone;

4) If someone calls to tell you you’ve won a prize, but have to pay a fee, don’t do it. “You shouldn’t have to pay for a prize,” Perales said;

5) Deal locally where possible and insist on a face-to-face meeting with the seller before making any large purchases;

6) Review bank statements monthly to catch unauthorized charges;

7) Contact the Better Business Bureau to see whether a company is legitimate;

8) Avoid buying when the seller says the deal only applies “today.” Perales said, “If it’s only good for today, walk away.”


Just as firefighters have trained generations of children to recall the phrase “stop, drop and roll,” Perales wants everyone to remember the motto “stop, think and call” to avoid scams. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division can be reached at either 888-777-4590 or at 515-281-5926.


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