Oakdale residents report hoax letter


The Oakdale Police Department sent out a hoax alert Oct. 12 about a letter some residents received earlier this month. The letter, seen above, raised a number of red flags — the phone number listed is not a city number and the city’s URL is misspelled — and should be ignored. The police department has resources to help people spot hoaxes and scams, including its “Don’t Get Hooked” booklet, which is available to the public. courtesy of City of Oakdale

Police department throws cold water on it

 

A letter received by Oakdale residents on Olson Lake Trail, purportedly from the City of Oakdale warning of a lurking chemical menace, is a well-trod hoax, according to Oakdale police.

“[S]ome residents have been exposed to high levels of dihydrogen monoxide through existing plumbing systems,” says the letter, adding, “immediate action is required by law.”

“The city certainly didn’t send it out,” said Michelle Stark, a community affairs officer with the Oakdale Police Department, pointing out the letter includes many red flags, including misspellings and other errors.

“If you’re getting something by mail it’s always good to check source material,” she added. “Don’t react out of urgency.”

The police department put out an Oct. 12 hoax alert about the letter, the same day it was brought to officers’ attention, Stark said.

Dihydrogen monoxide, or DMHO as it’s also referred to in the letter, is just an unfamiliar way of referring to water, aka H2O.

According to the fact-checking website Snopes.com, DHMO hoaxes date back at least 20 years. Indeed, such hoaxes are so deeply rooted that when one Googles “dihydrogen monoxide,” the first hit is a fake website about dihydrogen monoxide, which includes some of the same “facts” as the letter received in Oakdale.

The phone number listed on the letter, with a 605 area code, leads callers to a rejection hotline gag message. Stark said one of the police department’s worries is that the message might be changed and used for more nefarious purposes than razzing callers.

Stark said the hoax letter presents a good opportunity for the police department to promote its “Don’t Get Hooked” scam prevention booklet. 

The booklet includes statistics about scams and the different schemes criminals will use to steal money from people, in many cases older adults, and offers resources of who to contact for help.

Stark said “Don’t Get Hooked” has been a great resource for staff at financial institutions and grocery stores, places that are points of contact for folks who may fall victim to scams that use prepaid cards, wire services or gift cards. Criminals choose those means of moving money since they’re very difficult to trace.

The booklet allows employees who might suspect someone is possibly dealing with a scammer ways to break the ice with information from the police department, she said, instead of having a confrontational conversation.

“Anybody who wants more information, stop at the police department,” Stark said. The department is located at 1584 Hadley Ave. in Oakdale.

Otherwise, “Don’t Get Hooked” is available on the city’s website at www.ci.oakdale.mn.us/276/Crime-Prevention-Alerts.

 

—Mike Munzenrider

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