Ah, the weekend looms and the entire class is watching the clock as the day ticks down into Friday night and then, sigh, The Weekend.
Quite the week-long prelim here in the 24/680 and you have only to scan our pages to catch up, but then there was that whole stock market thing, proliferation of The Devil Flu, and plans for a grand military parade up Pennsylvania Avenue.
That last one, thankfully, is outside our area of coverage.
What we are seeing locally is an aggressive proliferation of cons and scams designed to separate good people from their money as well as a concerted and ongoing effort to separate pricey computers and other electronics from their owners. This has been done with a great deal of success as we – many of you – continue to ignore the bleatings of police and this site to carry your gear with you instead of leaving it in plain view on the back seat of your car.
If you’re good with losing the work computer, that novel you’ve been working on, and a bunch of other goodies crooks are just all too happy to relieve you of, then, okay, so be it. But we hate to hear that a con we’ve been warning you all about for years continue to work all too well, with folks – yes, mostly older folks – wiring off money to foreign scammers peddling a convincing story that little Jimmy or Heather got into a helluva lot of trouble on vacation and is now languishing in a dank jail cell.
The cons are preying on the good instincts of folks we know would do just about anything for their grandkids but, sheesh, there must be a lot of wild child kids out there for folks to believe the con and be so willing to pay “bail money” – often many thousands of dollars.
And, of course, Grandma is never going to see that money again. Also popular, it seems, is a local phone scam built around the desire of law-abiding folks to remain law abiding: callers informing them their car will be impounded if they don’t pay off past parking fines – with gift cards. Yes. Gift cards. Unbelievably, this con is also working well, and has been hitting hard in Martinez and San Ramon.
Working north and to the west a bit we have folks in Moraga wondering why people in Los Angeles are withdrawing money from their bank accounts after using debit cards to pay for gasoline in MoTown. Patrons of two local gas stations have been particularly hard hit and this gambit is currently on folks’ radar screens. We hope.
Also making a resurgence of sorts is the so-called Assassin Game, popular with high school kids and providing a few anxious moments for unwitting civilians unused to seeing teens stalking one another around town or on campus.
The game has surfaced at a number of local schools, including Foothill and Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, and police there where concerned enough to issue a warning to parents last month.
For the uninitiated, the game involves teams of students who are assigned “targets” designated for “assassination” – by those foam dart-firing Nerf guns. Now, this may seem harmless and normal behavior for high schoolers but there are cash prizes involved as well as troubling methods of stalking the “targets.”
Startled civilians have dialed up police after seeing kids with what they think are dangerous weapons, with assassins often chasing their victims on foot or in vehicles, and surprising the targets in public spaces.
Pleasanton police warned of students painting or disguising their “weapons” to make them look more realistic; reaching for concealed weapons in public places; lying in wait behind bushes, trash cans, vehicles or fences; accessing or hiding on the property of another, often late at night; waiting for a target while dressed in all black or camouflaged clothing; reckless driving to avoid being targeted; car loads of teens driving around “stalking” or “hunting” their targets; jumping out of moving vehicles to attack or flee from other participants; and conducting a “drive by” shooting of a target in a parking lot or public street.
We’ll just say that we live in a post-Columbine world, and we have seen heavy and armed police responses to situations where realistic-looking “play” guns were being used. Elements of the game are obviously attractive to kids, but we’re hoping a few words of caution may head off a potentially tragic encounter.
That’s it. The weekend is almost upon us. We’ll be headed for the beach or grabbing our bikes for a ride. We’re hoping everyone stays cool and safe. Check in when you can.