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Holidays bring out scam artists, as woman learned

Holidays for most are a time of year to consider relationships and build goodwill through gift giving.

But for scam artists and thieves, they also present an opportunity to tap into the purchasing flurry to make off with a quick buck.

Peg Tarbell of Yankton said she had a gut feeling the flat-rate envelope offering her nearly $1,000 she had received in the mail was too good to be true, but that didn’t stop her from hoping it wasn’t.

“I knew it was a fake from the beginning, but when you have almost a grand in your hand you want it to be true,” she said.

The nature of the scam was that Tarbell would work as a mystery shopper at Wal-Mart. It involved her purchase of a money order and asked for her to mail it to a location out of the country. If she followed the directions, she would receive $955.

The clues were obvious upon a deep inspection, despite the envelope’s “official” look, she said. There were inconsistencies with the addresses, copied names and a counterfeit U.S. Post Office label.

“Unless you really are looking at it, it would be easy to be taken in. It really would be,” she said.

Tarbell, 57, checked the offer on Google, further setting off her personal alarms, and called the U.S. Post Office for clarity’s sake. After confirming her suspicions, she called the local and state police, and the FBI. She said she was told there was little that could be done.

“Predatory scammers can turn the holidays from wonderful to ruinous in the click of a mouse,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a prepared release. “But there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself.”

Rosenblum outlined a list of eight warning signs to look for when considering holiday offers. Among those is a warning that, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Tarbell said she hopes her experience serves as a warning for local residents to be wary of potential scams.

“Maybe we can at least stop people in our neighborhood from getting hurt,” she said.