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Stay Educated: Avoid Becoming Scam Victim

I often talk with senior residents here in Volusia County about crime and how to avoid becoming victims of crime. Unfortunately, we continue to see criminals targeting seniors—over 60—using impostor phone calls, texts, or e-mails.Here’s a quick reminder of several types of scams:

Technology: A computer user receives an e-mail from a “tech” who says they’re from Microsoft or another big name, alerting the user that their computer has been hacked and they’re provided a number to call right away. Of course the victim calls and an impostor convinces them to give up personal information to help solve the problem. We are investigating two recent cases that cost the victims $7,000 and $10,000 respectively. If you receive an e-mail saying your account has been compromised and call this number right away—don’t do it! Instead, call the customer service number on your credit card or account directly for help.

Grandparents Scam: Someone calls an elderly couple saying their grandson or granddaughter was in a bad accident and needs money to get out of jail. In their shock, the couple exclaims and one says: “Oh no, Tommy’s had an accident?” Now the criminal has your family member’s name. This ruse involves thousands of dollars and often a courier picks up the cash. One victim was nearly duped a second time but she alerted us instead. Call your family member first before buying this story.

Law Enforcement
Scam: Criminals spoof phone systems to make it look like certain phone numbers are calling. The Volusia Sheriff’s Office has even been a victim of this: Someone calls you, pretends to be so-and-so, and says you owe a fine or missed jury duty. They threaten you with arrest unless you pay using gift cards, credit cards, Bitcoin, or some other payment.
That’s also happened to other police agencies, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, and more. No legitimate agency ever asks you to pay over the phone. We don’t operate that way. Don’t fall for it!

Romance Scam: Someone approaches you online in a chat room or on a website. That person is charming, maybe your soul- mate or the answer to your loneliness. Suddenly they’re asking you for money to help them out of a jam. You send money and they ask for more and more.

In all these scams, first, you can help yourself by being educated about them. Second, be suspicious. If you don’t recognize a caller’s ID/phone number—don’t answer! If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.
Third, never give your personal or financial information over the phone—Social Security number, birth date, account numbers. Fourth, another big red flag in most of these scams is when the caller says “don’t tell anyone.” That’s exactly what you should do.

Report it to someone; and don’t fall for it. Or just hang up.

These fraudulent cases may come via phone, in-person visit, or online, but the most important thing is to be cautious, suspicious, and practice good crime prevention.

Here are some important signs to watch for. You may be a scam victim if you’ve received:

  • Unsolicited calls or emails; High-pressure tactics or offers that seem too good to be true;
  • Threats of loss or risk if you don’t take immediate action;
  • Requests for immediate payment by wire transfer, credit, prepaid debt, or especially—Gift Cards!

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website myfloridalegal.com features programs with information about common scams. Scams At A Glance includes down- loadable brochures in English and Spanish to teach consumers how to avoid becoming a victim. The other program is Consumer Alert. To view recent Consumer Alerts, visit MyFloridaLegal.com/ConsumerAlert.

We also have a very helpful program here in Volusia County called Seniors Vs. Crime, a program begun by Attorney General Moody. Volunteers can help mediate or communicate on behalf of crime victims and help you get where you need to go.
* This program helps people of all ages.

One of the best things I see with this program is seniors are helping seniors. Many older folks feel embarrassed to report that they’ve been scammed. So they’re more comfortable talking with senior volunteers who are caring and trained to help, and can reassure them that they’re not alone.

To Contact Seniors Vs. Crime: E-mail: volusia@SVCproject.org **E-mailing may prompt the quickest response. Website: www. seniorsvscrime.com Phone: 1.800.203. 3099; or 407.537.9509.

We’re always available at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office to help: Call our non-emergency number: 386.248.1777, or 911 in an emergency.

You are very important! Be cautious and if you’re unsure about a solicitation, ask someone you trust.

Stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood