It’s a brand-new year and the crooks who prey on the most vulnerable people—our seniors—are working hard to find new, more creative ways to trick unsuspecting people into sharing their private financial information, causing them to lose their hard-earned money.
This week I want to remind everyone of the big red flags to watch for in potential identity theft.
We are actively investigating after an elderly couple in west Volusia County recently reported being scammed. It happened when they received a call from someone who said she works for a bank and had detected fraudulent activity in the husband’s account.
Soon she told the male victim that he won $2 million through Publisher’s Clearing House and he would have to follow her instructions precisely to claim the prize.
She explained that he would have to pay taxes on the prize through a series of transactions. Unfortunately, this incident sounded suspicious from the get-go: Then she asked our victim for his personal information, such as his Social Security number, address, birth date, and more, which he provided.
Who wouldn’t like to believe they won $2 million? The reality is, if it sounds like a dream, it probably is just that.
The caller then instructed the couple to stay home and not to tell anyone about the deal. For a week they complied, following instructions to complete transactions at different banks. At some point, they realized they were being scammed and contacted the Volusia Sheriff’s Office.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office has great information that can help educate you about new scams and how to protect yourself— www.myfloridalegal.com Here are some general tips about recognizing scams from her office to help guide you:
• Unsolicited calls or e-mails;
• High-pressure tactics or offers that sound too good to be true;
• Threats of loss if you don’t take immediate action;
• Requests for you to pay immediately by wire transfer, credit, prepaid debit, or gift cards.
I would add the reminder: If the caller tells you not to tell anyone, tell someone! That’s a sure sign of potential criminal activity.
In recent months, I have spoken with area senior groups about various kinds of scams that can befall residents, including Grandparents, Romance or Sweetheart, Home Repair, Jury Duty, and other types of scams, as well as impostors who call you pretending to be a law enforcement agency such as the IRS, Homeland Security, even the Volusia Sheriff’s Office!
Remember: any agency with a drop of integrity does NOT operate by calling or emailing to demand money or threaten you with arrest. We certainly do not. Don’t fall for it!
We continue to talk about these scams not to scare anyone – just to educate you to help you avoid becoming a crime victim as we embark on this brand-new year.
I caution everyone to be vigilant and suspicious if you receive a phone call, text, e-mail, or other attempt to hook you that you didn’t expect. In the West Volusia case, it would have been better to go directly to the bank and talk with someone there.
If you’re unsure, talk with a trusted family member or friend. Or call our non-emergency number: 386.248.1777 or 911 in an emergency. We are always here to help.
Let’s make 2024 a healthy, safe year for everyone,