James Joyce, of Lumberton, recently received a phone call that made him concerned about the well-being of his grandson. The male on the other line told Joyce that he had a broken nose from an accident and that Joyce would not be able to understand him speak. This man made it seem as though he might be his grandson, but Joyce was not sure since he was unable to understand everything that was being said. The male put another male on the phone claiming to be a lawyer. This person told Joyce that the young man had been in an accident when he was reaching for his cell phone and went through a red light. The “lawyer” said that the person in the other car involved in the accident was severely injured. Then the “lawyer” proceeded to tell him that he needed to send money via iTunes gift cards; four of them at $450 each.
He called his grandson to make sure he was okay. When he confirmed that his grandson was fine; he determined that he had been a target of a scam.
Chief Danny Sullins of the Lumberton Police Department says that the department receives calls reporting scams like that every day. Sullins said that a lot of times the suspects are in another country. They may call 100 people and then get one person who goes along with their scam, sometimes earning the scam artists $1,500.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has a department specifically for these types of situations. The AARP Foundation ElderWatch is staffed with volunteers who take calls regarding scams or fraud and can refer victims to the appropriate agency to report the scam. The network took in over 14,000 inquiries on various scams and frauds happening throughout the country.
“Scams are only limited by the imagination. There is never a short supply,” says Rafael Ayuso AARP Texas Communications Director. He continues to say that they have heard of this type of scam many times. It’s usually an emergency situation and appeals to people’s emotions and love of family.
According to Ayuso, the most frequent way that scam artists reach their victims, even with all of the technology today, is still through phone. “46.3% of all complaints received in 2015 resulted from scams over the phone. The web was second with 32.2%,” he said.
The AARP complaints vary, but these are the top five they have received in 2015: IRS imposter, sweepstakes/prize/foreign lottery, technical support (claiming to be Microsoft), phishing scams (seeking personal information), and ID theft. AARP says that IRS imposter scams have ticked up in the past several weeks. Technical support scams have been reported most with highest number of victims who have actually lost money.
Ayuso advises that if you did not initiate the call, be wary, especially if they ask for confidential information. Scam artists can impersonate you to get money out of your bank account, apply for a home mortgage, and other activities to adversely affect your credit. If a person receives a call like this they can say they will call the person/company back. Many times, Ayuso says, the person on the other line will just hang up. “Just follow your instincts. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” suggested Ayuso. It is safer to pay with a credit card that way if you make a mistake, you can usually stop payment on a credit card.
When asked what steps a person should take if they have received a call or email that they believe to be a scam; Ayuso says to contact your local police department as well as the fraud department at AARP. If it is someone claiming to be from a company, then you can contact the local BBB to check it out. If you have already fallen victim to a scam, contact the police.
In order to report a fraud/scam, contact AARP at 877-908-3360 or on their web site at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. Telephone scams or telemarketing fraud can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-435