Naperville residents have lost $750K to crypto scams this month. Here’s how to avoid falling prey

Last week, while police departments across the suburbs were urging citizens to “Slam the Scam” as part of a national anti-fraud campaign, investigators in Naperville were at work on four new cases in which victims didn’t — and lost nearly $750,000 in cryptocurrency as a result.

“Our financial crimes unit typically deals with two or three cases involving cryptocurrency a month,” police Cmdr. Rick Krakow told us this week. “So, to have four cases (in less than two weeks) is unusual.”

Police say there’s no reason to believe the perpetrators of the scams are the same, and there are few obvious links between the cases — the victims include two men and two women, ranging from 45 to 83 years old, and each fell prey to a different tactic: romance, hacker, arrest and sextortion.

What they did have in common, besides the involvement of digital currency, was that the victim never met the scammer in person.

That’s a red flag, police say.

“Scammers can be very convincing and play on emotions like love or fear to get you to do what they want, so please be careful when someone you haven’t met is asking for or demanding money, especially cryptocurrency,” said Naperville Detective Christopher Reading. “Resist the pressure to act immediately. Stop and talk to someone you trust or reach out to the Naperville Police Department before sending any money.”

Other tips, from the Federal Trade Commission:

· Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request you didn’t expect. Honest organizations won’t call, email or text to ask for your personal information, including your Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.

· If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links or call a number they provided. Instead, contact them using information you find on a company website you know is trustworthy.

· Never pay someone who insists that you can only pay with cryptocurrency, a wire transfer service, a payment app or a gift card. Also, never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

As for the most recent victims, police admit there’s not much hope of them getting their money back.

“Unfortunately, when money is converted to cryptocurrency and transferred to a scammer, it’s very difficult to track that money and the odds of getting it back are very small,” Chief Jason Arres said.

On the mend

Lake County’s celebrity police dog Dax continues to recover from injuries suffered last week while tracking down a suspected car thief.

Lake County sheriff's police dog Dax continues to recover from an injury suffered last week, surrounded by some of the get-well cards and treats he's received from well-wishers. Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office

The 9-year-old German shepherd, who’s made appearances on the “Today” show, Hallmark Channel and other national outlets, is continuing treatment this week at TOPS Veterinary Rehabilitation in Grayslake, according to an update from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

But he loves the outpouring of support, including the bevy of get-well cards and treats sent to Dax and partner Deputy John Forlenza.

Dax was injured March 3 as he and Forlenza apprehended a 16-year-old boy suspected of stealing a car just across the border in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, then crashing it as police chased him to Zion. The suspect fled into a wooded area, where Dax was injured while capturing the teen.

The injury left Dax unable to put weight on his back legs and with some swelling in his neck and spine.

You can still send get-well wishes to Dax and Forlenza to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, 25 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Waukegan, IL, 60085, ATTN: Deputy John Forlenza.

In memoriam

While we’re wishing a speedy recovery to Dax, we also must offer condolences to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, which is mourning the loss of police dog Arko.

The Kane County Sheriff's Office is mourning the death of police dog Arko, here with partner Lt. Michael Wilgosiewicz. Courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff's Office

The 9-year-old German shepherd retired March 1 after about 7⅟₂ years of service, according to the sheriff’s office. He passed peacefully, surrounded by partner Lt. Michael Wilgosiewicz and other members of the K9 community.

Imported from Hungary, Arko served as an explosive detection dog and apprehended numerous dangerous felons during his time with the sheriff’s office, officials said.

“With K9 Arko as my partner, I was told no less than 12 times by suspects I arrested that if I did not have my partner by my side that night, they were planning to either fight with me, flee from me, or harm me in some way,” Wilgosiewicz said in an announcement of Arko’s passing. “The simple presence of my partner by my side prevented me from being harmed. I came home to my family each night because K9 Arko was there with me. My partner would have done anything to keep me safe.”

It’s the second time in a year that Kane sheriff’s police have had to bid farewell to one of their police dogs. Hudson, a 4-year-old Dutch shepherd, suffered a fatal gunshot wound during a shootout between police and a carjacking suspect May 24 in Geneva.

Landmark achievement

Lake County’s “A Way Out” program, which helps those battling substance abuse disorder get treatment, has reached an important milestone by assisting its 1,000th client.

Launched in June 2016, the program allows a person to walk into any participating police department, turn in any drugs and paraphernalia without fear of criminal charges, and receive helping getting into inpatient or outpatient care.

After the initial treatment, participants can access recovery assistance, including peer support, case management, transitional and recovery housing, and community resources.

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