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'Grandma I'm hurt . . .': Phone scam Monday preys on emotions; bank personnel help block swindle

December 6, 2011

COLUMBIA CITY – An elderly Columbia City woman was nearly swindled out of $3,000 Monday morning had it not been for some questioning about a transaction by personnel at People’s Federal Savings Bank.
The criminals made a phone call to the woman concocting a scenario where bail money was immediately needed for the woman’s grandson.
When the phone rang at the 82-year-old woman’s home, she heard “Grandma, I’m hurt . . . I’ve been in a wreck, I got some teeth knocked out and I need money.”
The startled woman asked if the phone caller was “Brad” because it didn’t sound like him. The scammer, following the lead, said it was indeed Brad, but due to his injuries he sounded different. The man then “put his attorney” on the line to explain the fabricated circumstances as to why bail money was needed.
When the woman contacted bank officials to make the transaction, they questioned the woman further and ultimately alerted law enforcement about the swindle.
“My mother nearly had a heart attack over this,” said the woman’s daughter in a phone call to The Post & Mail. “This was very, very upsetting to her.
“People need to know that these types of things, these scams, don’t just happen in big cities. People must always be alert,” said the daughter. She also said her mother is not gullible and is very intelligent, but that the criminals preyed on her emotions at the outset of the phone call.
She commended personnel at People’s Federal Savings Bank for being so helpful in the incident.
Law enforcement officials are investigating.
Scam artists relentlessly prey on the elderly, note law enforcement officials.
Why are the elderly more susceptible and more likely to become victims of a scam? The elderly are vulnerable to scams because they tend to be too trusting, gullible, live alone and don’t have someone watching over their finances. Loneliness also plays a role. Elders are often grateful to have someone to talk to – not suspecting that the “nice man” on the phone may be preying on them.
Tips to avoid scams
Can anything be done about elderly scams?
“Many of us have a parent, friend or neighbor who would benefit from a friendly reminder that seniors are prime targets for scam artists. We can help prevent them from losing their money, their dignity and their sense of security,” said Ken Hunter, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Caregivers can take some steps and identify red flags to help protect their elderly parents from scam artists and fraud against elders, according to the Better Business Bureau. These include:
•Get involved with seniors’ financial decisions as much as possible, especially when managing personal finances has become a burden.
•Never allow your elderly parent to give out (or at least warn them against it) personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called. Popular scams include promising information on new health miracle product, a charitable donation, or confirmation of a sweepstakes.
•If a salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company – including the company’s name, address and telephone, do business with someone else.
•If someone calls from a “government agency” requesting money, ask for a certified letter on an official letterhead.
•Visit the homes of elderly relatives regularly. Ask about phone call they’ve received (con artists tend to develop relationships with their lonely victims and prey on their need for conversation.). And watch for a full mailbox. Large numbers of mailings from promotion companies could indicate that the elderly person is on a “sucker list.”
•Tell your parent never to hire someone who shows up at their door. If they are told their plumbing needs fixed, or the roof needs repaired, the scammer may take money, but never do the work.
•Tell your parents never to make an “on-the-spot” decision. If the person says you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss the opportunity, it is likely a scam. Legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without taking the time to look into the deal.
•Avoid investments that promise huge profits with no risk. “High-return” investments are not guaranteed and legitimate companies will tell consumers about possible risks involved.
•Put the senior’s phone number on the National Do Not Call registry by phoning 1.888.382.1222 or visiting www.donotcall.gov (this will help to limit phone calls from telemarketers.)
Fraud against older Americans is a serious problem affecting thousands every year. These tips can help prevent your aging parent from falling victim to scams.

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