Identity theft has become a major problem in recent years, even though it is not a completely modern scam. Similar scams have been tried through the years. One such scam that has come to my attention involved two well-known Norwalk families those of A.J. Baltes and Ed M. Esker, who were married to sisters.
In the summer of 1932 Mr. and Mrs. Esker took an auto trip through the western United States, and spent one night at the hotel in Pie Town, Mexico. That evening, Anne Esker wrote a letter to her sister Gertrude Baltes. In the morning she left it to be mailed, but it was picked up by a con artist who sent a collect telegram to Mr. Baltes, saying that he was Ed Esker and that they had been forced off the road and over a cliff, badly damaging their auto. He asked for at least $100 to get them on the road.
A.J. sent $150 via Western Union to Carlsbad immediately. That evening (a Sunday) the Eskers drove back into Norwalk in their own auto. It didn't take long to figure out the deception, and word was sent to Carlsbad to hold up on the payment. When the con artist showed up to claim the $150, he was unable to answer correctly a series of questions from the telegraph operator.
Thus, the plot unraveled but I could not find that the suspect ever was apprehended, although the police has a description. I guess everyone felt lucky enough that the $150 was safe. It is a story in the Esker family that always afterward Ed warned his family to never leave mail with hotel employees to mail, but to be sure personally that it was safely in the mailbox.