Source: Asbury Park Press -
Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, has seen many scam letters in her day, but this one got her attention.
It was from a scammer pretending to be someone by the name of “Bridget Anne Kelly,” presumably the former Christie administration official found guilty in the recent “Bridgegate” case. It didn’t mention anything about traffic problems or Fort Lee, but it did say “sup Assemblywoman” and contained a link to what Google has identified as a website that was probably hacked.
Handlin, who was a member of the joint legislative committee that investigated Bridgegate, didn’t click on the nasty link, but if she had, malware in the form of a rogue toolbar probably would have been installed on her computer. “This one got my attention because it was as though a thief was leaving bread crumbs back to the scene of the crime,” Handlin told Press on Your Side this week. “It was so brazen and so unmistakenly a scam that even I was shocked.”
Handlin has become an expert on scammers. For nearly a year, she’s been collecting examples of scams and posting them on her Facebook page on Fridays with the hashtag #FraudWatchFriday. She has worked with AARP New Jersey to combat senior fraud and the con artists who scam vulnerable residents. Con artists use the mail, email and phone calls to rip people off. “They utilize both old fashioned and new fashioned means of contact in the hopes of overwhelming older people and confusing them,” Handlin said.
“People have to recognize that scammers are very good at what they do. This is their full time job,” Handlin said. “They are going to be a step ahead of what they do unless we force them out of hiding.”
For instance, on Black Friday, Handlin sent out a warning on credit-card scams and financial cons, asking people to contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs if they need help. “Law enforcement can only take effective steps when patterns are established,” she said.
Another post alerted readers to a scam in which someone posing as a trooper with the State Police in Woodbine called and claimed they had to collect bail money for the homeowner’s relative who was arrested. (State police or law enforcement won’t ever call and ask for bail money for anyone.)
Handlin has received other email scams, including one that offered an “investment proposal” and another that was “regarding a Payment Reduction on your Student Loans.”
“I post examples and I tell people what they can do and what authorities they can contact and try to help raise awareness,” Handlin said.
That brings us back to that Bridget Kelly email. It’s obviously not from the real Bridget Kelly, who was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and civil rights violations in the Bridgegate case. According to the documents, she had a different email address. The scammer just used her name as part of the email address sent to Handlin.
Handlin surmised that maybe a scammer stole someone’s contact list and randomly selected names in the news that might get someone’s attention. Or maybe the fraudster tried to identify public officials and match it with names in the news, she said. “Obviously whatever the thinking process was, the goal was to get my attention and tempt me enough to click on that link.”
No deal, scammers. Handlin, and hopefully readers too, know not to click on links in emails.
“Our best defense is a good offense,” she said. “People need to be on the alert. They need to educate themselves.”