DES MOINES, Iowa – Attorney General of Iowa Tom Miller honored five Iowans for their efforts to stop the abuse and fraud of their fellow community members during the office’s inaugural Consumer Protection Hero recognition ceremony today in the Iowa Capitol Rotunda.
“Today, we honored these exemplary citizens for their dedication and service to those in their communities who have been or could have been the target of fraudsters,” Miller said. “These individuals have gone above and beyond to protect their fellow citizens.”
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.
The individuals recognized in 2021 are:
Randy Meier, Clinton: As the director of Seniors vs. Crime Clinton County through the Clinton County Sheriff’s office, Meier has dedicated his life to protecting vulnerable community members. Through his column in local newspapers, he provides information to the community regarding scams and fraudulent schemes. He was one of the first people in Iowa to warn of new twists to the grandparent scams, including the use of couriers. He also speaks to community and civic groups about protecting themselves and their loved ones from abuse.
Scott Kilmer, Exira: Kilmer was driving a customer to a bank in West Des Moines in early 2020. The trip wasn’t out of the ordinary for the Yellow Cab driver, but as their conversation continued, it was apparent something was amiss. The 83-year-old woman was preparing to withdraw $38,000 from her account and transfer it to someone she didn’t know. She received a call from a man claiming to be with the IRS, urgently telling her a family member needed funds to pay a bill or he’d be sent to jail. Kilmer knew this was the hallmark of a scam. He and a bank representative spoke with the woman and convinced her she was being scammed. Kilmer then notified the Attorney General’s Office, providing information about those who attempted to scam the woman.
Jeanne Scheer, Wheatland: Scheer, lead cashier and bookkeeper at Randy’s Neighborhood Market in DeWitt, keeps up with local news. That’s how she knew something was wrong when an elderly customer came to the store to buy a large sum of gift cards. Scheer had heard on the news that scammers were targeting seniors in this manner and realized this was likely the case for her customer. Scheer recorded the woman’s license plate and contacted the local authorities, who investigated and found the woman had purchased thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards at several other retailers. The police and the woman’s family were able to intervene further and put an end to the scheme.
Carla Houston and Wendi BeLieu, Des Moines: Iowa State Bank teller Wendi BeLieu and assistant bank manager Carla Houston teamed up on June 10, 2021, to put an end to a scam of one of the Des Moines branches’ customers. The man, who seemed upset and anxious, asked to withdraw $8,000 and asked Wendi not to ask questions. This was a red flag for Wendi, who began to share information on scams with the customer, hoping something would resonate. The customer claimed his situation was legitimate and became agitated. When Carla overheard the encounter, she stepped in, asking the man to call his granddaughter. The man initially refused, noting that he had been contacted by a lawyer who insisted his granddaughter was in trouble. The customer claimed that the situation wasn’t a scam and that he knew the lawyer well. When he was finally convinced to place a call directly to his granddaughter, he learned the young lady was fine and he was likely being scammed.
Seeking Future Consumer Protection Heroes
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is accepting nominations for the 2022 Consumer Protection Hero awards.
Nominations of those who act to protect their community members from abuse and fraud can be made online.
The 2022 Consumer Protection Hero recognition ceremony will be held in the spring of 2022. Details of the ceremony will be released at a later date.