Home NEWS Local Scene The Friday Follies: High School Assassins, Debit Card Skimming, And Conning Grandma

The Friday Follies: High School Assassins, Debit Card Skimming, And Conning Grandma

Remember, kids, we live in a post-Columbine world.

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.



    • @Pamela – Whoa. Sorry to see you go – but we’re hearing from folks who are actually picking up tents stakes. So we guess its real. Of course we wish you the very best of luck.

  1. With real people hit by real bullets around here you would think kids would find a different game.

  2. Young and dumb and old and easily sold. Hopefully in the middle years there we find some common sense.

  3. Pamela, we’re not far behind.you and leaving the Bay Area. It is not that great here anymore. People are stressed out of their gourds and rude. Traffic is horrible and crime is taking over. Our family’s planning to get out of Dodge next year. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle said there’s an exodus of people leaving the Bay Area so we’re not alone

  4. Am I the only one who absolutely loves it when the power goes out? The speed of information slows, allowing folks to digest the news more fully before reacting. Think about it: When you find out about something after it has already been resolved, things are just easier. And, if the power goes out, the scammers can’t scam. But best of all, neighbors come outside and start talking to one another for lack of anything else to do.

    • @GF – Nope. You’re not alone. If we’re not working we like it, too! But we’re on the electronic tether if we’re on the job!

  5. I’ve always loved when the power goes out! I’ve never called to report it, because I’m in no hurry to have it restored! It brings out the little kid in me. As long as I’m not cooking or in the middle of something important. Neighbors do gather… lol.

    Credit card scammers are scary. Be very cautious.

    As far as the Bay Area, I really like it here. Always have, and always will. Traffic is everywhere, and so is crime. Most of the people leaving the Bay Area are less educated, lower income people who can’t afford the cost of living. Leaving for a less expensive place to live is understandable. If you’re a happy person, you can be happy anywhere.

    • @Danielle – Oooh, ow. Totally with you until the “less educated, lower income people” comment which puckered us. We’re with you, we’re Californios and we’re not leaving, BUT we know a ton of extremely well educated and decidedly upper income folks who have tired of the state for a number of reasons and are seeking more favorable climes – be they business or otherwise. Oregon keeps coming up as a destination. We like it up there but it’s not for us. But others are picking up tent stakes and packing the wagons.

  6. News 24/680… The “lower income, less educated” comment is not coming from me. I’ve read it on SFGate, etc. and it’s true. The main reason people leave the Bay Area has nothing to do with crime, traffic, politics, etc. and everything to do the cost of living. This is coming from the experts, not me. Higher income, highly educated people will MOVE TO the Bay Area for wages and property values.

    Portland, Oregon and Texas are two main places people are moving to. Which offers a lower cost of living, especially Texas.

  7. CNBC – Survey says 34 percent of Bay Area residents are ready to leave (2016)

    “The economic divide in the Bay Area is real. We will lose low-income earners and they will be replaced by high earners. We are losing the middle class as well.”

    I thought this was common knowledge to Bay Area residents. Maybe I read more news.

  8. We pay more for gasoline and groceries. Way more for our homes. We pay more taxes and yes traffic is getting worse and even more out of hand, if that is possible. San Francisco stopped being a livable city about 15 years ago. But we’re staying. We have lived in those places people say they are going to and they’re not as good and they come with their own set of problems.

  9. We played a game which gave us the same thrill. We called it “tag.” You don’t actually have to pretend to kill someone to win.

  10. Leaving California? Good. But I say you have to surrender your rights to coolness at the border. There’s no coming back. Have fun in Boragone.

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