In honor of Consumer Protection Week, ceremony recognizes individuals who acted to stop fraud and abuse
The 2022 AG Hero Award recipients were honored during a ceremony on March 8, 2022 in the Iowa State Capitol Building. Pictured (L to R): Spencer Chapman, Attorney General Tom Miller, Mary Stogdill, and Tina Salisbury.
DES MOINES – In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller recognized four Iowans for their efforts to stop the abuse and fraud of their fellow community members during the office’s second Consumer Protection Hero ceremony today in the Iowa Capitol Rotunda.
“There is no more opportune time than National Consumer Protection Week to honor Iowans who exemplify what it means to protect their fellow community members from fraud and scams,” Miller said. “These heroes stepped up and ensured that others did not fall victim to costly cons.”
The AG’s Consumer Protection Hero award was created to shine a spotlight on the work everyday citizens do in their communities. Whether these individuals use their knowledge of scams to educate the public or recognize when others may be the target for scams or financial exploitation, they are heroes in the eyes of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division.
Each year, the Consumer Protection Division marks National Consumer Protection Week, March 6 to March 12, 2022, by providing education and resources to assist consumers in avoiding scams and frauds. By honoring Iowans who have had a hand in stopping such cons, the office hopes to show that everyday Iowans can make a lasting difference for others.
Please join AG Miller in recognizing the following individuals as 2022 Consumer Protection Heroes:
Lisa Hoerschelmann, Clinton:
As a member services representative for 1St Gateway Credit Union in Clinton, Lisa Hoerschelmann prides herself on making connections with customers. These connections not only help her serve customers but also allows her to know when something is amiss. Such was the case in August 2021, when Lisa noticed that a customer was acting out of sorts. When the woman asked to withdraw $8,500 from her account, Lisa asked a few extra questions, recognizing this was not a normal activity for the customer. The woman whispered to Lisa that she was told not to talk about the situation with anyone, even her family. The woman pointed to her pocket and told Lisa she was still on the phone and that the person who had called could continue to hear her conversations. The customer said she’d received a call from someone in Texas claiming that a vehicle she previously owned was involved in drug dealing. To have her name removed from the car title, she needed to get cash, go to Hy-Vee, and have money sent to the caller. Lisa told the woman this was a scam and helped the woman to block the number.
Mary Stogdill, Grand River:
As the treasurer for the Grand River Community Center, Mary Stogdill is dialed into the needs of her community. After becoming the target of an attempted tech support scam in October 2021, Mary realized that she could use her close call as a learning experience for her fellow community members. Mary detailed the tech support scam that targeted her in an article for the local newspaper: After starting her computer on Oct. 15, Mary was immediately greeted with a flashing screen and screeching sounds. She noticed the word “MacAfee” in small letters in the corner and a message in large letters: “YOU ARE BEING HACKED CALL THIS NUMER IMMEDIATELY.” Believing the number was for McAfee, the antivirus/identity protection service, Mary called and was put in touch with a representative named Elena who was able to stop the computer’s noise and flashing screens. Elena told Mary that her computer had been hacked and that those responsible were going to take all the funds from her bank accounts, including those of the Community Center, totaling $51,000. To save her money, she would need to transfer funds to a hidden bank account. Mary called her banker and inquired how to make such a transfer. Thankfully, her banker, Spencer Chapman, realized this was a scam and helped Mary to close her accounts and later reopen them. In addition to sharing her story so publicly, Mary also contacted the Iowa Attorney General’s office and arranged for investigator Al Perales to visit Grand River for a presentation on scams and how to avoid them.
Spencer Chapman, Truro:
On October 15, 2021, Spencer Chapman, a personal banker with Great Western Bank in Osceola, received a phone call from Mary Stogdill, the treasurer of the Grand River Community Center. Mary requested to wire $51,000 from her and the community center’s accounts. Recognizing this was not something Mary would normally do, Spencer knew to ask questions, including what the purpose of the transfer was, did she know the beneficiary, and how long she’d known them. Pausing between each answer, Spencer realized Mary was simply parroting what she’d been told by someone else. Mary said she needed to talk to her boss and ended the call. After waiting a few minutes, Spencer called Mary directly and asked if she was being told what to say. After answering the first question again, Spencer told Mary she was being scammed. The scammer who stated they were a virus protection company was wanting Mary to transfer all funds to one account in order to protect the funds from a scammer in China. They told Mary they would wire the funds to an account in Thailand for protection. They then accessed Mary’s computer remotely to monitor her conversations. The scammer even went as far as telling Mary she was not to speak to anyone or have anyone else in the room with her. Following the second conversation, Spencer asked Mary to come to the bank to close all the accounts in her name and open all new ones. He assisted her in turning off online banking and requested that she have her computer cleaned and checked for viruses. Once the computer was clean, he assisted her in creating a new online banking log-in.
Tina Salisbury, Johnston:
A criminal analyst with the Iowa Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center, Tina Salisbury has been an integral part in combatting the so-called Grandparent Scam in Iowa. In July 2020, Tina noticed 14 reports of similar grandparent scams in which couriers were being used to collect money from victims – a new twist on the long-running scam. These cases resulted in the loss of $208,450 from Iowans. Looking into these reports, Tina reached out to surrounding states and found they had also been targeted by the same organization, and helped to identify one of the suspects, who was eventually arrested in Ohio. Tina continued to investigate grandparent scams, and in January 2021, found that the same organization had come back through Iowa, resulting in 16 reports and the loss of $300,000. Working with agencies in surrounding states, she continued to collect information on the grandparent scam ringleaders. In May 2021, the organization came through Iowa again, with 14 reports made and $163,800 lost. This time, thanks to Tina’s hard work, dedication and persistence, members of the Dominican-based criminal organization were identified, and the organization was dismantled.
Seeking Future Consumer Protection Heroes
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is accepting nominations for the 2023 Consumer Protection Hero awards.
Nominations of those who act to protect their community members from abuse and fraud can be made online at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection-hero-awards.
The 2023 Consumer Protection Hero recognition ceremony will be held in the spring of 2023. Details of the ceremony will be released later.