Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Phone Scam Alert! Don't Fall For It!

From SDPD Officer Larry Hesselgesser, here are some great reminders to help keep our seniors from getting scammed. If you have elderly parents or neighbors, go over this info with them please!

You get a call unexpectedly from someone who claims to be a relative. This often happens to grandparents with the caller claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter. The caller says there’s an emergency and asks you to send money immediately. But beware; this is an imposter trying to steal your money! Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam.

How do these scammers choose you to contact? Sometimes they contact people randomly. They also use marketing lists, telephone listings, and information from social networking sites, obituaries and other sources. Sometimes they hack into people’s email accounts and send messages to everyone in their contact list.

How do these scammers know the names of your friends or relatives? In some cases they don’t. For instance, the scammer may say “Hi grandma,” hoping that you actually have a grandson. If you ask, “David, is that you?” the scammer will say “Yes!”

Often these crooks will call in the middle of the night and take advantage of the fact that you may not be awake enough to ask more questions and you may not want to disturb other people by calling them to confirm the information. Sometimes the scammers do know the names of your friends or relatives. They can get that information from a variety of sources on Social Media like Facebook.

What do these scammers usually say? They might say something like, “I’m in Canada and I’m trying to get home but my car broke down and I need money right away to get it fixed.” Or they may claim to have been mugged, or been in a car accident, or need money for bail or to pay customs fees to get back into the United States from another country. They may also pose as an attorney or law enforcement official contacting you on behalf of a friend or relative. No matter the story, they always want you to send money immediately.

If you think you are being scammed, what can you do? These scammers will ask you to send money through prepaid credit cards such as Green Dot Money Pak Cards. Once you give them the scratch off numbers on the back of the card, the money is theirs. Verify everything before ever giving out this number. Even if they say, “don’t call mom, she will be so mad at me!” Call mom to verify. Ask some questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer correctly – the name of the person’s pet, for example, or the date of their mother’s birthday.

People have lost thousands of dollars with these scams. Pay the $1 extra to have your phone number or your loved ones, unlisted. If you have elderly parents that you are concerned could fall for one of these scams, talk to an attorney about getting Power of Attorney over their assets so they only have access to a smaller amount of their money.

Why can’t the police help me? The crooks behind these scams use prepaid cell phones that are untraceable and commit their crimes entirely over the telephone. Some of them may say they will have someone pick up the money but then make up an excuse why a prepaid credit card would be faster. They would not meet you in person for fear of getting caught. It’s not that the police don’t want to catch these thieves that mostly prey on the elderly, it’s because there is no evidence to follow-up with. Many of the thieves are also out of state or even out of country. There is very little chance of catching them. This is why it is so important to educate our loved ones so they do not fall victim to these sinister crimes.

For more information about many of the different scams currently being used, go to www.consumerfed.org/fraud

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