Safe meeting a smart decision

The Wilton police have tagged onto a wonderful idea that we only wish weren’t necessary.

Taking a hint from a police professional magazine, Chief Brent Hautanen and his officers have provided folks who transact online sales that require face-to-face meetings with a safe place to do that business.

There is now, in front of the police station, a sign that marks a spot that is well-lighted and under constant video surveillance so folks meeting strangers to either collect or hand over money in exchange for goods won’t have to worry about getting mugged or worse. And in this day and age, that is, unfortunately necessary.

The sign says, “Meetup spot. Internet purchase exchange location. Live video recording.”

That is far better than meeting a stranger in a restaurant parking lot or any place else that isn’t very public.

And it gets better. Hautanen told our Jessie Salisbury that if someone wants more security than just lights and a video camera, that person can “call and we’ll have an officer there.”

Better, indeed.

Hautanen’s comment, “We want people to feel safe,” is right on target because in this world, with all the stories of people getting hurt, robbed, or worse, when engaging in these transactions, a place to be safe is a godsend.

This is a sad commentary upon the state of our world, a world in which scam artists seem to come out of the trees.

You’ve heard of the Grandmother Scam, of course, but if you haven’t:

Somehow, the scam artist knows you have a grandchild and somehow he or she figures out how to emulate, at least closely enough, the voice of your grandchild. And you get a call:

“Grandma, I need help. I’ve been arrested and they want $800 for bail and I don’t have any money and my credit card was stolen and I need you to wire me some money or get a cash card and …”

Sounds lame, doesn’t it? But people fall for it.

The most prevalent, at least from March into May, is the IRS Scam:

“Is this Mr. Jones? Mr. Jones, this is Agent Peters from the Internal Revenue Service and I have to tell you that you’ve owed us $2,000 for four years now and the interest is accruing. It’s possible that we will send a police officer to your home to arrest you unless you settle this debt. We will take a credit card …”

Equally lame. But people fall for it.

And it’s much easier to fall for the Online Sale Scam:

“Yes, I have a canoe for sale. Yes, that’s right, $600. Well, look, I’m in the middle of a messy divorce and I don’t want my wife/husband to know I’m unloading assets, so can we meet in (some out of the way, undoubtedly dark) parking lot? Yes. I’m in a red SUV. The canoe will be right on the roof.”

You think you’ll pull up and if it’s a scam, there will be no canoe on the roof. Don’t bet on it. These scam artists are smart enough to know you’ll think that if there’s no canoe, you take off. So they bring a canoe. You think all is fine. You get out of the car with your $600. Surprise!

This can happen to anyone. It has happed to lots of people. We are a pretty trusting nation, or at least we were, but it’s getting harder to put our trust in our fellow human beings when all around us people are getting ripped off. Or worse.

So what the Wilton Police Department has done is nothing short of excellent. If you have business to do with a stranger, well, there will be no safer place to do it, unless you agree to meet right inside the police station.

That’s not a bad idea, either, but as a favor to really busy officers, give that idea a pass.

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