OLIVIA — Thousands of dollars are leaving Renville County by the week to destinations unknown as scammers use the internet to prey on residents, many of them senior citizens.

It’s one of the reasons that Sheriff Scott Hable is seeking approval from the County Board of Commissioners for the county to join a Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force administered by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The sheriff told the commissioners at their meeting Sept. 21 that being part of the task force would assist the Sheriff’s Office in a variety of financial crimes investigations.

If the county joins the task force, it would have access to a forensic accountant to assist with investigations of financial crimes. It could also obtain reimbursement for overtime hours involved with financial crimes investigations.

The resources would benefit investigations into financial crimes, including the growing plethora of scams and frauds perpetrated over the internet.

“You’d be shocked by the amount of money that leaves the county every week due to scams and fraud,” Hable told the commissioners.

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Internet scams and frauds waged on ordinary citizens often go unsolved. The victims almost always wait too long to report the crime to law enforcement, he said.

Many of the criminals target senior citizens, and especially, widows and widowers who are lonely. One of the more common is the “sweetheart” scam, in which an online relationship is formed. The perpetrator will start by asking for a small amount of financial help, but the requests for money go on and on.

It’s often hard to convince the victims that the perpetrator is someone with a criminal intent, the sheriff said.

The commissioners will act on the request to join the task force at their next meeting. It comes with no financial obligation, according to Hable.