Wise up to bash scammers

Scammers are criminals who will say and do anything to steal your money. Law enforcement agencies across America, including the police departments here in the Mahoning Valley, are inundated with calls from seniors who have been scammed.

The days are gone when a con-man would have to get in your face to pull a fast one. Information technology with emails, social media and text messaging have enabled a growing horde of digital thugs to pose as government officials, bank officers and even our own grandchildren to scam us out of our money.

What can we do about it? Information is absolutely the No. 1 defense against scammers. Keeping up with the latest twists on scams is the best way to be able to quickly recognize the signs of fraud, and protect your assets.

Protect yourself and use these resources to stay on top of new scams:

l The American Association of Retired Persons is a wonderful source of current scam news. Just type “AARP New Scams” in your search engine to find a review of new scams. AARP lists “14 Top Scams to Watch Out For in 2023,” including cryptocurrency-romance scams where your new online lover tells you to invest in a bogus crypto account. Once you send your money to be invested in any kind of crypto scam, it’s gone forever. Find more information at aarp.org.

l The Baker Fraud Report is a great place to keep up on scams. This report comes out every week, and reports new scam details and law enforcement activity against scammers. The Baker Fraud Report of July 13 includes information on a scam based on stealing thousands of checks addressed to churches, and depositing the funds into several hundred checking accounts set up by a ring of crooked bank employees. Stealing checks addressed to churches — that’s a new low. Find the Baker Fraud Report at bakerfraudreport.com, and take a minute to sign up for its free newsletter.

l The U.S. Department of Justice is prosecuting and jailing scammers around the world. Read up on the details of recent arrests to see how scams work — and what happens when scammers are chased down by law enforcement. Interesting cases include the recent imprisonment of two Jamaican nationals for defrauding $1.7 million from 70 elderly victims across 15 states in a “sweepstakes” scam. The Jamaicans contacted seniors, told them they had won a pile of cash, a new vehicle or other items, then demanded payment of fees and taxes to claim sweepstakes prizes. The pair of scammers were arrested, tried and ordered to return all stolen funds while serving five-year prison sentences. Read about other scam investigations by visiting justice.gov, and typing “senior scams” in the search box.

l The Federal Trade Commission publishes a trove of information on scams, how they work and how to avoid them. The FTC describes a scam targeting consumers with big credit card debt, offering to negotiate repayment obligations in return for a large up-front fee. The victims pay the fees — then never hear from the scammers again. These scammers bragged that they actually found some of their victims on the FTC’s “do not call list.” Find out more by going to ftc.gov, and keying in “senior scams.”

The age of the computer has ushered scammers into our homes through cellphones and computers. Be careful when you get an email, text or other electronic message threatening you with arrest, says “your account has been suspended,” or you’ve won something for nothing. When in doubt — do nothing. Never, ever send a dime to anyone for anything using a gift card or wire transfer. And if someone says “cryptocurrency,” run for the hills.

Stay safe, enjoy the summer and don’t forget to wear a hat and use sunscreen before going outdoors.

Dave Long of Poland, a Youngstown State University graduate, is a retired public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who later worked as an Elder Scam Prevention Outreach specialist in Rochester, N.Y., before moving back to the Mahoning Valley.


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