Creative con artists pounce during COVID-19 pandemic
Con artists continue to be creative and prolific, even during a pandemic.
The number of coronavirus-themed fraud complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission has skyrocketed since March. From Jan. 1 through March 30, 18,940 reports were filed. That number stands at 155,903 as of Aug. 6. Almost 5,000 reports have come from Illinois.
Common frauds include: someone selling hard-to-find sanitizing supplies or masks and not delivering the product; the seller has a product, such as colloidal silver, that they claim will cure you of COVID-19; a person says they are from the IRS and needs your personal information so you can get extra stimulus money. There's one out there saying Costco will give you $130 in groceries if you take an online survey by clicking on a link.
According to the FTC, reported losses are nearing $100 million. The median loss was $273.
Of complainants who provided their age, the highest dollar losses -- a median $600 -- were reported by people 80 and older.
The BBB's ScamTracker shows some of the local COVID-19 issues.
"They're now doing the COVID twist," according to Steve Bernas, president and chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
"Rarely is there a new scam. It's mostly old scams with a new twist."
One falls into the classic "government impostor" category: Somebody claiming to be a COVID-19 contact tracer calls to say you have been exposed. The caller tells people the government requires them to be tested and will send them a kit, but they have to pay for it immediately using a credit card, Bernas said. In another, someone claiming to be from the IRS says they can help expedite the arrival of your COVID-19 stimulus payment.
Work-from-home scams are thriving, Bernas said, due to the large number of people unemployed because of COVID-19.
As always, Bernas said, there are simple ways to avoid being a victim. Screen all your phone calls -- scammers can fake caller IDs to make it look like the call is coming from a government agency. Be wary of anybody asking for your personal identifying information.
And if anybody asks you to make a quick decision, typically in less than 30 minutes? "That is what we call 'the tip-off to the rip-off,'" Bernas said.
Speaking of fraud
A nine-year-old theft case in which the Oak Brook Park District was the victim ended July 24 with the defendant pleading guilty.
But a check of various courts' records, and a Google search, showed the park district is just one of the alleged victims of Anthony J. Delmaro -- if that is, indeed, his real name -- of the 1300 block of President Street in Glendale Heights. Or, of the 3900 block of Union Road in Buffalo, New York, according to other court records.
Delmaro, 48, was arrested in DuPage County in 2011 when he was accused of taking $5,000 from the park district, but not doing the work he promised on the roof of its tennis center. He was released after posting $10,000 bond. But he failed to appear in court again.
In 2016, Delmaro wrote to the court from his home in the Mid-State Correctional Facility in New York. He was there on a sentence for defrauding an elderly man out of more than $500,000. He asked the judge in the DuPage County case to order New York to bring him to DuPage, so he could dispose of the 2011 case. The DuPage County judge refused, according to county court records.
In late May, a DuPage County sheriff's deputy arrested Delmaro on a fugitive-from-justice warrant out of Door County, Wisconsin. He had failed to appear on a 2018 theft-by-false representation case. Similar charges were filed in a pending 2019 case in Washington County, Wisconsin.
One of the Wisconsin cases notes Delmaro is also known by nine other names -- James Delmaro, James Delmarco, Jason Delmaro, James Delmauro, Anthony Dilmiro, Christian Gargano, Mac Harris, James Delmacro and Anthony X. Delmaro.
Back in 2017, we wrote about how to protect yourself from ATM skimmers after Naperville arrested three men on charges they had stolen more than $25,000 by placing the data-stealing devices on a bank's machines.
Last week, one of the men pleaded guilty to one count of a continuing financial crimes enterprise. Prosecutors dropped 120 other counts against Alin Doina, 51, of Elk Grove Village. He will be sentenced Oct. 2.
One of the co-defendants, Dorin Marchidan, 50, of Glenview, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to six years in prison.
There is a bench warrant out for the third man, 46-year-old Adrian Popa of Glenview, for failing to show up for a February 2019 court date.