A nationwide mailing scam that purports to raise funds on behalf of a pro-police group appears to be targeting residents in the Grass Valley area, authorities say.
The mailing scam, which was identified in a CNN article last fall and had already targeted residents in eastern states including Massachusetts and Wisconsin, asks recipients of the letter to donate $20 to an organization misleadingly calling itself the “Police Officers Support Association, PAC” according to Grass Valley Police Sgt. Clint Bates.
Grass Valley police have received only one confirmed report of the scam so far from a Penn Valley resident, but police are concerned that there may be more cases of the mailing scheme, as victims frequently do not inform law enforcement when they are scammed, Bates said.
This particular scam is troubling to police because it appears to be well designed to take advantage of elderly people in the community, Bates said. Senior citizens are more likely than most to read their physical mail, which leaves them vulnerable to a return mail scheme such as this, and they are less likely than younger adults to use the internet to fact-check the legitimacy of scam organizations, the sergeant added.
According to Bates, the “Police Officers Support Association” appears to be a facade for a political entity whose actual name is “Law Enforcement for a Safer America, PAC.” The organization is widely considered to be a “Scam PAC,” with only a fraction of donated funds actually going towards pro-police activity.
Out of $13.9 million raised in 2020, Law Enforcement for a Safer America reportedly only spent $543,177 on political activity, with the remaining funds being spent on vaguely defined fundraising and administrative expenditures, per data obtained by OpenSecrets.org.
Bates expressed that the “Police Officers Support Association” scheme appears to be relatively sophisticated in nature, adding that the mail-in form prudently avoids too much unwanted scrutiny by asking for only $20, a relatively small amount to request as far as scams go.
“It’s fairly smart of perpetrators to keep the dollar amount low, and that makes a lot of people fall for it, because $20 doesn’t really raise those red flags,” the sergeant said.
Once Grass Valley authorities begin to hear more reports of the mail fraud, Bates said that this will hopefully allow police to connect these different cases and conduct a more thorough investigation of the issue.
“The likelihood that we’ll catch someone for this goes up once we’re able to link these cases together. That’s really what we’re looking for,” he said.
While it’s good practice for people to inform police if they receive the fraudulent donation form, Bates also said that it is even more important for scam victims to report these cases to the FBI, which conducts more sweeping nationwide investigations into the groups behind fraudulent financial schemes.
Bates said that anyone who suspects that they’ve been the victim of fraud, either by mail, the internet or through other means, should report the crime to the FBI’s website on the subject, at http://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety.
Scams targeted toward the elderly cost Americans more than $3 billion annually, according to data compiled by the FBI.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org