Watch out for scammers
I had a friend tell me a little while ago that he got snookered by a scammer. I made a note of it because another newspaper customer a while back had mentioned he got a similar phone call.
Here’s the set up — they both got a phone call saying it was from their grandson in jail in another town. I think one said he was in Abilene. For both gentlemen, the caller used the grandson’s name and sounded very upset.
So they were told they needed to go purchase Visa prepaid gift cards, call back to a certain number and give the card numbers and any PINs to a lawyer so they could get out of jail.
One of the gentlemen who mentioned this was taken for about $2,500 and after the fact, there was nothing he could do about it. This scam has also been carried out using Western Union.
These scammers ask the grandparent to keep it just between them. They impersonate their grandchild to get them emotionally invested and once they are, they’re on the hook.
This is just one of the many scams that industrious fraudsters use to target older citizens.
In True Link Financial’s 2015 report on elder financial abuse, “$12.76 billion is lost annually to explicitly illegal activity, such as the grandparent scam, the Nigerian prince scam, or identity theft.”
Jacksboro Police Chief Terry McDaniel has said if it sounds fishy, call your local law enforcement and run it by them. They can help identify these scams before you become a victim.
Some scams that target seniors in particular in addition to the grandparent scam involve health care or health insurance fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery fraud, investment schemes and reverse mortgage scams.
Others that are not targeted to a particular age are sweepstakes frauds and IRS scams.
Some tips to help stay safe from scams include never give out financial information, a Social Security number or Medicare number over the phone unless you initiate the call. Legitimate Medicare or business callers will never ask for your full ID numbers.
True Link advises to beware of pushy marketers. Don’t hesitate to take down their contact information and do your due diligence. Also, check the fine print when ordering products online or from TV ads. Consult someone you trust if you’re feeling uncertain about requests for money or personal information. And, never send money with the promise of more money later.
Also, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I was curious how the fraudsters find targets. According to AARP, sometimes it’s just bad luck, but scammers also buy phone numbers from companies that sell data, using the same methods as legitimate marketing companies.
Even scarier, they use a con artist network. “If you’ve been a victim of a fraud or scam, you’re put on a so-called sucker list,” AARP’s Amy Nofziger says. “The lists are bought, sold, traded and stolen among scammers because they’re perceived as potential gold mines.”
A third source is volunteered information. It is information divulged by entering giveaways, sweepstakes or filling out surveys. Scammers will use all of them to create profiles of who they want to target.
The AARP requests that you help them fight fraud and protect others from being targeted by scams by reporting as many details as possible about them so the organization can work to shut them down.
Call AARP at 800-222-4444, option 2, to connect with an AARP Elderwatch specialist. Volunteers will talk through the issue with you, gather information about it, and refer you to the appropriate agency to which you should file a complaint.