Brantley residents learn about scams

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Senior citizens in Brantley learned Tuesday that they are prime targets for scams, but that there are things they can do to protect themselves.

Brantley Police Officer Terry Mears and Brantley Councilwoman Judy Woolley organized a scamming awareness workshop for residents of the city to learn how to avoid becoming victims of scams.

Mears and Emily Nichols of the attorney general’s office gave pointers.

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The key point both Mears and Nichols told those gathered was that if the deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.

Nichols said the top scams her office gets calls about are fake check scams, where people cash a fraudulent check that looks real and it winds up costing them hundreds or even thousands of dollars; TV ads and telemarketing schemes also make up the phone calls her office receives.

“With the fake check scam, it could take weeks for the bank to find out the check is not good,” she said. “By then, you’ve probably already spent the money and then you are responsible for paying it back.”

Nichols said that foreign lotteries are popular means of this scam.

Additionally, grandparent scam, which targets grandparent by “acting like the grandchild” and convincing them that their grandchild is out of the country and someone stole their wallet and they need funds wired to them.

Nichols also spoke of “sudden riches” scams, in which the scammer claims a person has won a lot of money.

“They will ask you to first wire them the money for the taxes,” she said. “It’s important to remember that the IRS will notify you after you have won of the taxes needed to be paid, not before.”

Nichols also said that older people are often targeted in sweetheart or new friend scams.

“They will get in contact with you and really connect with you,” she said. “They might say they are looking for a pen pal and once they develop a relationship they will ask you to send money for a visit.”

Nichols gave an example of woman who befriended a man who claimed to be from Sweden.

The man convinced the victim he wanted to come visit her, but had some issues to work out. Over a period of time, the victim sent him $90,000.

“She was lonely and wanted to meet him,” she said. “After 90,000, she realized he was a scammer.”

Nichols said it’s difficult to track these scammers down because they operate from foreign countries, have fake IDs and operate in groups.

Nichols told the crowd gathered one of the best ways to protect themselves is by not answering the phone for numbers they don’t recognize.

“If it is someone who really cares about you, they’ll leave a message,” she said.

Nichols also advised that residents pay careful attention when purchasing something online that is advertised for free.

“Most of the time, it says plus shipping and handling,” she said. “And most of the time, you have to pay it on everything you get for free.”

Nichols also warned of telemarketing schemes, but also reminded those in attendance that not all telemarketers were scammers.

“You can usually tell after talking to them if they are legitimate,” she said. “After they’ve been nice; they’ll be mean. Just hang up.”

Mears, who is passionate about protecting residents from scammers, also shared about in-person scams.

“These are the most dangerous because safety is involved,” he said.

Mears said that recently, someone with a child had stopped at a local resident’s home and said it was an emergency the child needed to go inside.

“Why stop at your house; go to the hospital,” he said. “They are looking around for something to steal. Do not let them in your home.”

Mears said if someone knocks on your door, try to determine who it is before you open the door.

“If all else fails, call 911 to report a suspicious person,” he said. “Don’t let them know you are by yourself.”

Other in-person scams include people who are trying to sell something. For example, a person claims to be riding by and noticed that the homeowner needs a new roof, or they would like to conduct an inspection under the home to ensure there are no water leaks or insulation problems.

Another scenario is people selling vacuum cleaners.

“In the event you confront them, as them if they have a permit to do business in Brantley,” Mears said. “Scam artists are nothing more than thieves. All they want is your money and personal information, so they can steal your money or your identity, or if they can physically steal something from around your home.”

Mears reminded those present to never give out personal information such as your full name, maiden name, date of birth, social security number, Medicare/Medicaid number, driver’s license number, PIN number, credit card number or any of you banking account information.

Brantley Police Chief Titus Averette said when in doubt, call Town Hall and they’ll be happy to assist.