The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office filed two reports this week alone regarding a sweepstakes scam and another involving an alleged inheritance fraud.
According to the Better Business Bureau, “Fraud targeting senior citizens is a growing concern as millions have fallen victim to scammers. Better Business Bureau encourages families to keep the lines of communication open with their elders regarding finances and to recognize some common cons targeting senior citizens.
Identity theft can also occur as scams unfold.
Vital personal information is usually given during interviews or email conversations between the unsuspecting victim and the “unscrupulous crooks,” according to officials.
Bob Gault, media information coordinator for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, said deputy Mitchell Roe filed a report for a man who lives in southeastern Bradley County. The report was filed during the weekend.
According to Roe, he spoke with a “Mr. R.”
A man who identified himself as James Kennedy informed Mr. R that he had won $2.5 million, a Cadillac Escalade and additional cash.
Kennedy told Mr. R that he would have to settle taxes prior to claiming the prizes from the company.
Mr. R was instructed to send money via Western Union, to Jamaica.
A name was provided for whom to send the money to, according to Roe’s report.
Mr. R sent a cash payment of $371. Since May 27 and July 8, Mr. R sent an additional $47,618 to 11 different names of people as he followed the scam’s instructions.
According to Mr. R’s statement, he said the last time he had talked with the man he identified as Kennedy, the scam victim told him he “didn’t have any more money” to send him.
Kennedy reportedly told him he would “arrange a time for Mr. R to receive his prizes.”
The only description Mr. R could give of Kennedy was that he had a “strong” Jamaican accent.
Mr. G was another victim, according to Gault.
Deputy Daniel Watson spoke with Mr. G Monday.
Mr. G was reportedly contacted about an inheritance.
Watson noted that Mr.G had been victimized since Jan. 1.
The difference in this scam and the one involving Mr. R is the fact the Internet was utilized to commit the fraud.
Mr. G has sent between $10,000 to $25,000 to the scammers.
Sheriff Jim Ruth also weighed in on the matter.
“If someone is claiming to give you money, you typically don’t have to send money to pay for it. Taxes and fees come directly from the winnings,” Ruth said, referencing sweepstakes and lotteries payouts.
Lt. Bob Hancock, Neighborhood Watch coordinator for BCSO said he is implementing scammer information into the Neighborhood Watch program.
Hancock plans on introducing the program at the National Night Out Against Crime, which will be held Oct. 1 at the Dale Hughes Gymnasium at North Cleveland Church of God.
The BBB indicated many varieties of scams which target the elderly, but not only the elderly can be affected, especially when personal information is passed onto the scammers.
“Never provide personal information to these people,” Ruth said.
Medicare scams, bereavement scams, investment or work-at-home opportunities are among the top.
“Promises of easy money often target older adults because they may be looking to supplement their income. The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an up-front cost. Regardless of the specifics, the victim is offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes,” according to the BBB.
The sheriff suggested anyone who is approached via email or phone solicitation should be aware. The BBB offers extensive information about the activity of scammers.
BBB has also paired with Western Union to protect consumers in the event of an “emergency” scam.
In a news release by BBB, “victims are told that their loved one is traveling and needs help. Scammers make urgent pleas for the victim to send money, often to another country. More people travel during the summer, and whenever people are vulnerable, fraudsters will generally attack.
BBB Scam Stopper was jointly launched by BBB and Western Union as a site to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a scam. Visitors can sign up to receive BBB Scam Alerts, weekly emails with details on the latest scheme reported to BBBs across North America.
“Emergency scams play off peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help friends and family in need,” said Shelley Berhnardt, director of Consumer Protection at Western Union. “Verify the emergency and resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.”
Con artists hack into email or social media accounts and target the victim’s friends and family with frantic requests for money. They impersonate the traveler and claim to have an injury, a lost or stolen wallet, or even say they were arrested. Scammers use the information in these accounts to supply enough personal detail to make their requests appear legitimate.
“The stories are extremely plausible, and many scammers have done their research,” said Carrie A. Hurt, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “But you should never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it’s a real emergency. Always check out the story with other family and friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.”
Information on scams and how to protect yourself is also available at Western Union’s Consumer Protection Center: http://www.westernunion.com/stopfraud.