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Scam Alert
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Tough economic times are here and unfortunately this makes life easier for a scammer.  People are desperate for money and therefore let down their guards and are more likely to pursue questionable financial opportunities that one would ordinarily stay clear of.  And as people become more inured to monetary woes, their charitable inclinations are more easily exploited by scammers pretending to be persons in need of sympathetic helping hands.

The scammer is creative and will use several persuasive forms to allure potential victims through the use of telephone calls, mail, and electronic mail (email).  Scammers may prey on victims by falsely representing themselves as religious figures, law enforcement personnel, charitable groups or any other organization in an effort to gain trust.  The ultimate goal of the scammer is to obtain as much of your financial funds as they can at the quickest rate.  Often people fall victim of identity theft by releasing personal information to the scammer, allowing access to financial accounts or the creation of new accounts that you do not know exist.  Others are simply compelled to send money as a result of the scammer’s trickery.

To avoid becoming a victim of a scam, think first before reacting.  A few questions you should ask yourself are: Is this too good to be true? Why do they need my personal information?  Scammers have numerous ways of luring you into their traps.  Below I have listed a few of the current scams being used throughout America as well as your own neighborhood.  These are just a few of the popular ones, but more schemes are being created every day.  Remember to educate your family and friends of the dangers of these scams.  The majority of the senior community still has trust in others and are unaware of these deceptive acts being performed.

*72 Scam

Here is how this works. You receive a phone call informing you of a death in your family. You are instructed to call another number for further detail by dialing *72 before the number given. This will transfer all calls sent to the number given which is the scammer’s number.  The scammer then gives your number to his buddies anywhere in the world and they can phone him via your cellular phone, with you picking up the charges — and knowing nothing about it — until you get your bill.

The solution: Don’t use the *72 or any other forwarding code to forward calls to a number you don’t know or recognize.  You can enter *73 to clear call forwarding. (We’re not sure if *72 and *73 are the forwarding codes for all cell phones. Check your cell phone manual or talk to your carrier.)

Craigslist Scam

When selling items on craigslist.org, be prepared to receive inquires by possible scammers.  Here’s how the scammer operates on craigslist: For example, while selling an item on craigslist, you receive an email from an interested buyer (scammer).  The scammer advises that they are out of the area, so they need the item shipped to them. The scammer then requests that you cash a check that they will send to you by mail.  This check is usually for a large amount of money, which is well over the amount you are asking for your item.  The scammer claims that the shipping fees are extremely expensive and they need the extra money for expenses.  The scammer requests that you cash the check and then send them the money via Western Union.  Once you do this the money is gone.  Now the check that you cashed bounces and you are responsible for paying your bank back the money you gave to the scammer.  If the victim falls for this, the scammer may send more checks and ask for them to be cashed and wired, with the excuse of more shipping issues or other fees.  They may even share some of the money with you for your hassle.

With money being wired through Western Union, the transaction is merely impossible to trace.  Even though they have you wire the money to a certain Western Union, the funds can actually be picked up at any Western Union in the world.  All you need is the transaction number for the account.  This account number is supplied by the scammer, which the scammer sets up under a false identity.

Grandchild Scam

A victim lost $ 5,000 in this scam. This is how it works. A senior receives a call from someone posing as their grandchild or a foreign police agency. The reception on the call is very scratchy. The victim is told that their grand child has been arrested in foreign country or another state and needs bond money immediately to avoid imprisonment. The victim is instructed to get the money and send it by Western Union. They also are informed by the grandchild not to let anyone else know. The victim often believes that their grandchild told them their name but in reality the victim provided the name. This is obtained by the so called grandchild talking on the phone. More often than not the victim will use a name of a grandchild who they believe is in trouble that name will be adopted by the scammers.  One victim called the police after they sent money through Western Union but was able to recover it because it had not been delivered.

This type of scam is insidious because it preys on basic family bonds. We see repeated use of this scam because of its simplicity and effectiveness. Currently, we are aware of such calls being made in the Conway-Freedom area. Be alert by letting seniors know of this scam and informing them about sending money for so called sudden emergencies.

Contest Winner Scam 

How the scam operates is that victims receive a letter supposedly from a well known contest such as Publishers Clearing House claiming that they have won $1 million as the second place winner of a drawing sponsored by Reader’s Digest Magazine. The letter is accompanied by a check for as much as $5,900 with instructions to call the Publishers Clearing House representative listed in the letter. Over the phone, the victims are told that, in order to receive their prize, they must cash the check and then wire approximately $4,000 to Publishers Clearing House and then the rest of the winnings will be sent to them. The check, however, is fraudulent and any money wired to the scammers cannot be recovered.

Smishing and Vishing Scam

Here’s how smishing and vishing scams work:  criminals set up an automated dialing system to text or call people in a particular region or area code (or sometimes they use stolen customer phone numbers from banks or credit unions). The victims receive messages like: “There’s a problem with your account,” or “Your ATM card needs to be reactivated,” and are directed to a phone number or website asking for personal information. Armed with that information, criminals can steal from victims’ bank accounts, charge purchases on their charge cards, create a phony ATM card, etc.

Sometimes, if a victim logs onto one of the phony websites with a smartphone, they could also end up downloading malicious software that could give criminals access to anything on the phone. With the growth of mobile banking and the ability to conduct financial transactions online, smishing and vishing attacks may become even more attractive and lucrative for cyber criminals.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. If it’s free or a gift, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Free is free.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It’s illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or the telephone, and most foreign lottery solicitations are phony.
  • Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money to strangers.
  • If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Don’t send the merchandise.
  • As a seller, suggest an alternative way for the buyer to pay, like an escrow service or online payment service. There may be a charge for an escrow service. If the buyer insists on using a particular escrow or online payment service you’ve never heard of, check it out. Visit its website, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. Call the customer service line. If there isn’t one — or if you call and can’t get answers about the service’s reliability — don’t use the service. To learn more about escrow services and online payment systems, visit ftc.gov/onlineshopping.
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank’s phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the check or from the person who gave you the check.
  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don’t pressure you to send money by wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction.
  • Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.