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Don’t be a victim of common phone scams
By Scott Schroeder
Special to the Reporter
Recently, I have been responding to frequent reports of residents receiving scam phone calls in which they are asked to wire money to distant locations. A favorite target of these scam artists are seniors. In an effort to raise awareness of these types of crimes, and to prevent you or your family from losing money, here’s a look at the scams that are most common.
The lottery scam
In this one, someone will call you and inform you that you have won some fabulous prize. It could be large amounts of cash, cars, or even houses. All you need to do to secure your fabulous new wealth, they will tell you, is to wire some cash to a “lawyer” or some other type of lottery official. Common amounts range from $1,000 to $2,000. This is a pretty simple one to recognize because if you think about it, you probably don’t remember buying a ticket for the Canadian Lottery or whatever lottery you supposedly won.
Finally, there is no prize in the world that requires you to pay them to receive your money.
‘Family member needs help’ scam
This one has the caller pretending to be a relative or close friend of yours. They will typically use the old psychic trick to fish information out of you to make their identity seem real. For example, they might say, “It’s me, your grandson,” to which you would reply, “Tom?” Now they know your grandson’s name and you may not realize that it was you who told them. Remember also that there is a world of personal information available on the Internet these days so when they call, they may already have all the information they need to seem legitimate.
Next, they will make a desperate plea for help and ask for money to be wired. They will claim they have been in a vehicle accident and are in the hospital or that they have been arrested. In any case, they say they will need cash to be wired to their location whether it’s for bail, medical bills, or whatever else they come up with. This one is targeted at seniors because they are usually quick to help family and friends, and very possibly don’t speak to extended family often enough to know them by voice.
This scam can be fought simply by doing some follow-up before you send any money. Call another family member who knows where this person would be and confirm their location. Even better, call the person you supposedly just spoke to. If they are at home, then they are not in a Dominican jail cell.
These scams are popular with criminals because once you wire cash somewhere, it is essentially unrecoverable. Typically, the cash is wired to a foreign country so any type of investigation is impossible.
In conclusion, almost anyone that calls you and wants you to wire money to them is trying to steal from you. These two examples are the ones I seem to deal with almost every time, but there are limitless variations on the theme.
If you have a family member living on their own that has dementia or even just gets confused more often than they used to, pay close attention. Make sure that they call you before making any large financial decisions. If you feel they are vulnerable, consult an attorney to discuss possible power of attorney arrangements to protect them and make sure they can continue their retirement in peace, they’ve earned it.
For more tips and information go to: www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.