by Nathan Boddy
Christine Staub, a driving force at the Boxxe Shoppe at 901 S. 1st Street, was recently presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf and Hamilton Police Chief Stephen Snavely. In his presentation to the City Council on March 15th, Chief Snavely said that he wants the Hamilton Police Department to “become more vocal about the good things that happen within the community.” Sharing his department’s experience with Ms. Staub was one such opportunity.
In early March, a customer came to the Boxxe Shoppe intending to send a package via FedEx. The customer seemed confused and unfamiliar with the process, and Staub became suspicious when considering the customer’s age and the particular details of the transaction. Unfortunately, it was not Staub’s first time having encountered such circumstances, having encountered people falling victim to mail fraud in the past.
As a certified shipping depot for FedEx, the Boxxe Shoppe is legally justified to open a package which bears its shipping label. After following protocol, and doing so in the presence of a witness, Staub was able to uncover the unfortunate contents of the package: nearly $16,000 in cash, which the customer was unwittingly sending to a scammer in Chicago, Illinois.
Over the course of her decade with the Boxxe Shoppe, Staub has now recovered approximately $60,000 in cash, all of which was being fraudulently demanded from senior citizen members of the community. Staub is familiar with the profile of the potential victims, but wishes that others within the community would help her look out for their safety. At least one of the potential victims she aided was a resident at a local extended nursing facility and had to be provided with a ride to the bank as well as to the Boxxe Shoppe.
“It’s common sense to me,” she says, pointing out that red flags abound when seniors are being scammed. “If a person is 80 years old, and all of a sudden they’re coming into the bank to withdraw $15,000, it makes my ‘spidy’ sense tingle.” She adds that the most important way to combat such abuse is for people to ask questions and start the conversation with those you know and love.
Staub doesn’t know the details of what potential victims are told, but she knows that they are, “often coached to say they are shipping legal papers or paperwork.” Other common tactics for scammers include claiming to represent the IRS or Social Security Administration. Sometimes they will tell their victims that a loved one has landed in jail, or that a prize has been won, but a fee needs to be paid for release of the funds. The scammers will commonly use a legitimate address, but will be ready to grab the package from a porch or front door when it arrives.
“They always direct the victim to send it, ‘no signature required,’” she adds.
The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 requires banks to keep track of withdrawals of $10,000 or more in order to prevent fraud and money laundering, but many scams can fall well beneath that threshold. Furthermore, even keeping track of those larger withdrawals may not mean that the bank is able to prevent the cash from going out the door. In order to slow the damage done by scammers, the United States Postal Inspection Service gives the following points of advice: never pay for a prize, don’t attend “free” seminars, don’t return unknown phone calls, consult with a friend, register for a ‘do not call’ list, and review your financial statements. Furthermore, it is worth noting that neither FedEx or UPS allow shipping of currency.
In an ironic twist, Staub mentions that she has, “never had any (of the potential victims) say ‘thank you.’” Of course, she understands that they are often embarrassed and sometimes even reticent to acknowledge that they’d nearly been fleeced. Nonetheless, it makes it all the more fitting that Chief Snavely saw fit to give her the recognition of the Hamilton Police Department and City Council. His recognition went even further, and was brought to the attention of Five Valleys Crime Stoppers, who awarded Staub with a cash prize for her vigilance.