Police report scams hitting area residents, often elderly

By: 
KERRY HAMILTON SMITH

Tecumseh police are warning area residents that scammers are using various methods to bilk them out of money – sometimes thousands of dollars. Tecumseh Public Information Officer Chad Rodgers says some of the scammers play on the heartstrings of the elderly, while others take money in online schemes. Regardless, he offers a few tips that will protect your bank account.

One of the scams which Rodgers has seen too much lately involves calling older people to tell them a family member is in trouble. They’ve either been in an accident or are facing some sort of legal issue. They’ll either pretend they are the grandchild or they are the friend of their grandchild or a legal representative. “They pull on their heartstrings,” Rodgers said. The tell-tale sign it’s a scam is when the perpetrator asks the target to purchase gift cards and then relay the numbers of the cards over the phone. “No legitimate business will ever ask for payment with gift cards,” he said.

“If a third party says your family is in trouble, verify first,” Rodgers cautioned. The sophisticated scammers will research names and relationships on Facebook or some other social media and then call a grandparent and tell them their grandchild needs help. “I’m sure there’s a training program for these guys,” Rodgers said. “Call a family member or call us before you pull out any money.”

If you own a phone, you have more than likely received a call saying you are eligible to receive an all-inclusive vacation to a resort of your choice for a nominal fee. It’s a scam. Rodgers said once you’ve paid the fee, you’ve been duped; phone calls are directed to a non-working number and there’s no way to connect for your vacation collection.

Another scheme involves the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Rodgers said tax scammers will call and say you owe money and then threaten to send police if payment isn’t made. In fact, they recently called him at the Tecumseh Police Department and threatened to send someone after him, he reported with astonishment. “The IRS does not call. The IRS will not arrest you.” he said. “Police will never threaten arrest in lieu of payment.”

Two computer scams have been prevalent recently. If you are on your computer and a message pops up with a message from Microsoft or another well-known software company saying your computer is infected and then directs you to call, it’s a scam. “Microsoft doesn’t scan your computer,” Rodgers said. Once called, the scammer will ask you to give them remote access of your computer. “Never give anyone remote access to your computer,” he cautioned. The scammers can then highjack your computer, add viruses or shut it down. Scammers will ask for a ransom payment in return for getting your computer up and running again. “Some of those are pseudo legit,” he said, but they charge exorbitant prices to scan for issues.

The other online scam he’s seen often is one that includes sending money to pay the taxes of a huge sum of money you’ll supposedly receive. Sometimes the target will receive a bogus check. “If you didn’t enter a contest and someone tells you you’ve won something, but you have to pay taxes, it’s a scam,” Rodgers said.

“What I would suggest is that if you have any doubts, talk it out,” Rodgers said. “Call a relative. Call us. If you have an elderly loved one, make sure you educate them. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

Rodgers said that because the internet isn’t regulated, these scams are impossible to investigate, especially when they originate in Jamaica, Aruba or Ethiopia. “It’s not going to stop and they’re going to get more creative,” he cautioned.

However, Rodgers has taken steps locally to help those whose bank accounts might be affected. He has contacted CVS to make sure they are aware of the gift card scheme and plans to contact Walgreens. CVS has limited its gift card purchases to $2,000 per day in order to help stop the fraudulent activity. He’d also like to host meetings to educate people about the scams and is devising a plan that will reach out to Tecumseh’s elderly population to make them aware.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, last year’s top fraud was imposter scams. Nearly one in five people who reported an imposter scam lost money. Nationwide, $328 million was lost to someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble, a government official, tech support, or someone else who’s not who they say they are. Based on reports, the top states for identity theft were Michigan, Florida and California.

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Tecumseh Herald

 

110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286
517-423-2174
800-832-6443

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