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Scammers often see seniors as an easy target and someone they may be able to scam. With American seniors losing over $3 billion, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), scammer-related crimes are affecting every community.
In fact, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) announced to the public on Saturday, July 30 that someone claiming to work for that office, calling himself “Deputy Moore,” called a resident of an adjacent county and explained had that the person had to pay him money to avoid a warrant being issued.
A media release from the WCSO states: “This is a scam. If you are contacted by someone claiming to work for this office and requesting or demanding money, please hang up and call the Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-4128. Representatives of this office will not contact you regarding any payment due to this office.”
Warren County had 83 reported fraud cases last year, according to Major Jeff Driskill. Six were reported by companies and the remaining 77 were reported by individuals. He said a further four incidents were logged but not included in the total because a complainant’s age was not reported or “was not prevalent for the type of incident”.
Of these cases, 19 involved fraudulent identity theft, 43 involved fraud other than identity theft, 19 involved telephone, internet or email fraud, one involved a band-aid fraud and one related to postal fraud.
Driskill said 47 (almost 57 percent) of the 83 incidents involved people over the age of 50. Only six of the reported fraud incidents involved a business, non-profit organization or government agency.
There has been a range of activity involving scammers in Front Royal, according to Captain Crystal Cline of the Front Royal Police Department (FRPD). Notable cases over the past eight weeks include a case in which a Front Royal woman received a call from someone claiming to be from the US Border Patrol. The caller told her that someone set up multiple addresses in her name and then mailed her money and/or drugs to those addresses.
The scammer told the woman that she had a warrant out and that she could hire an attorney, fly to Texas and fight the warrant, or put money into an account that would be used by an attorney to challenge the warrant on her behalf.
The person asked her how much she had in the bank; She replied that she had $900. The caller then advised her to download a tracking app on her phone and withdraw all the money. After completing the withdrawal, she was advised to go to a Bitcoin ATM, convert the money into Bitcoin, and send it to the caller. After doing that, the person asked them to max out all of their credit cards and send more money.
In one case in late June, a victim received a call from someone claiming to be from Security Services Credit Union. The woman was told there was a pre-approved purchase on account through Amazon for $1,500. During the call, the victim allowed the caller access to her computer. The caller said he would put them through to an Amazon representative who would cancel the purchase.
Cline said that while speaking to the two people, the victim was told there were other purchases and she would need prepaid credit cards to withdraw money from her bank account in order to stop the “scammers.” The callers then said they needed the prepaid card information so they could deposit the money into a new account for them. The victim told police she spent $7,500 to purchase 15 prepaid credit cards and then gave the information to callers.
The FRPD reports that two notable cases emerged in July, including a woman who received a phone call that her daughter was in police custody in Hanover County and must pay $16,000 before police would release her. Since the call apparently came from a 911 emergency call center in the district of Hanover, the victim did not question the accuracy of the caller’s claim. She sent $15,450 in cash via UBER to an unknown person at an unknown address in Richmond. The victim later learned that her daughter had not been arrested.
In mid-July, a woman from Front Royal was using her PC when a message appeared on the screen stating that the computer was infected with a virus and she was asked to call the number shown for help troubleshooting her computer.
When calling the number, a man identified himself as a Microsoft employee and informed the victim that all of her personal information had been stolen and that her bank account had also been compromised. The scammer told her to go to her bank and withdraw all her money. She was also told not to use her phone or any other device that could connect to the internet to avoid further losses.
The victim went to her bank and withdrew $15,000, after which she bought gift cards at the scammer’s urging. She was instructed by the scammer to provide the gift card redemption codes so the caller could deposit the money into a special account to protect her money from theft.
Both Major Driskill and Captain Cline say citizens should be wary of people calling who claim a matter needs immediate attention, especially if they’re being asked to pay with an unusual payment method. Preloaded debit cards, gift cards, and virtual currencies like bitcoin are typically not legitimate means of payment for funds owed.
Anyone receiving a call from someone claiming to be from the person’s bank or calling on behalf of a friend or relative who is said to be “in trouble” should resist the urge to act immediately. Scammers will try to pressure their intended victim by claiming that time is of the essence. According to Cline, potential victims can talk to someone they trust, such as a family member, an employee at their financial institution, or a financial advisor.
Driskill states that people over 50 “are disproportionately likely to be victims of fraud and scams compared to other age groups.”
Both the WCSO and FRPD encourage anyone who has been contacted by an unwanted caller stating that money is needed immediately to hang up and call the authorities.