Scam alert!

Columnist Steve Lange looks back at some of the area's least favorite hoaxes.

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In one few-week period in June, fraudsters scammed a 62-year-old Rochester woman into depositing $7,000 into a Bitcoin account, scammed a 56-year-old Rochester man into paying $9,000 in gift cards, and scammed an elderly couple out of $22,000 in gift cards to pay for Microsoft updates.

We can only hope that karma prevails. And that others learn from those mistakes.

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Columnist Dan Conradt says passing Officer Duane each morning, I should have been aiming for the "thumbs up" sign, not the hand signal I normally received.

We have, over the years, collected numerous stories of local hoaxes and scams.

Here are a few more of our (least) favorites.

This will heal you. Oh, unless there is bad weather, then we’ll have to hook you up directly to cable.
In July of 2011, a Stewartville man was ordered to repay more than $8,000 after allegedly swindling a 70-year-old man and his 68-year-old wife. He allegedly told the couple that he could cure their health problems through a satellite, set up with doctors in Germany. According to the complaint, he claimed the satellite waves would bounce off the man's body — as he simply sat in his recliner — and be sent back to the doctors in Germany, who would adjust the frequency to heal him.


This will sanitize your water well. Oh, unless there is bad weather, then we’ll have to hook it up directly to cable.
The same Stewartville man also faced a similar charge in Dodge County, where a complaint alleged a man signed a contract with him for a “German Water Treatment Plan” that “was never an actual treatment at all.” The plan said his water would be sanitized with rays and beams from a satellite controlled by a company in Germany. No such technology exists, and the man said he lost $1,275.

You just never know who you’ll see in Rochester!
In March 2011, the Weekly World News website ran a story with the following headline: “Cap’n Crunch at Mayo Clinic for Diabetes.”
“The Captain was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. last week to receive treatment for severe diabetes,” read the story. “After living a reckless life on the high seas eating only his famous cereal and the occasional Slim Jim for close to 40 years, the Captain’s body finally just gave out.”

“And I’m the 3rd Viscount of Newark, Baron of Dooby Doo.”
In 2006, a 22-year-old Austin resident showed up at Stillwater Area High School and tried to enroll as a 17-year-old named Caspian James Crichton-Stuart IV, 5th Duke of Cleveland, Earl of Scooby. Gardner claimed to be visiting the U.S. for ear surgery at the Mayo Clinic. He spoke with a British accent, handed out business cards bearing the crest of a lion and a unicorn, and insisted on being called “His Grace.” After giving an interview to the Stillwater school newspaper, the teenage reporters did some research and discovered Gardner’s true identity. They also found that he was, in fact, a registered sex offender.

Somewhere, on the other end of the line, a window repairman is laughing.
In March of 2009, a hoaxster called a woman staying in a Rochester motel and, pretending to be the motel manager, tricked her into breaking a window with a chair. The caller, according to police reports, told the woman that there was a gas leak in the room, and advised her to put a wet towel under the door, unplug everything in the room to prevent an explosion, and open the window by "whatever means necessary." When the window jammed, the woman used a chair to smash the glass.

Which makes you wonder how he defines “everybody” and “loves.”
In January of 2008, self-described “hoax artist” Rory Emerald (he’s placed dozens of fake lost and found ads in papers across the country) placed a fake classified ad in the Post Bulletin, claiming to have found a diamond scepter and inauguration gown that belonged to Eva Peron (the late first lady of Argentina). "It's just wild,” Emerald told the Post Bulletin from his home in Los Angeles. “Everybody loves it."

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

Opinion by Steve Lange
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Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.
Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.