Spotting scams: Seminar warns seniors on criminals seeking themSome criminals have moved from the street to the computer and telephone. Scams and cons are becoming the standard way of stealing for more criminals, according to Lt. LeRoy Gross, detective with the Jamestown Police Department.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Some criminals have moved from the street to the computer and telephone. Scams and cons are becoming the standard way of stealing for more criminals, according to Lt. LeRoy Gross, detective with the Jamestown Police Department.
“In 2000 I got my first computer in my office,” he said. “Now I’m on it constantly because that’s where the crime is. There are criminals across the country and around the world and they’re trying to rip us off.”
Gross was speaking at a seminar presented Friday as part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The presentation was delivered at the James River Senior and Community Center in Jamestown.
Criminals try to scam people of all ages, he said. One of the common scams aimed at older people involve faked calls from grandchildren claiming they are in jail or have been in an accident. Other scams claim they have won a lottery or sweepstakes and must pay taxes or attorney fees in order to get the money delivered.
Other scams prey on people who are trying to sell something online through eBay or other service.
Gross said the prospective buyer may send a check for an amount larger than the purchase price and ask that the change be transferred by wire back to him. The check is counterfeit, allowing the criminal to receive the money transferred to him while the victim is required to pay back the bank where the counterfeit check was cashed.
“The common denominator in much of this is the wire transfer,” Gross said. “Many people have never wired money. Don’t do it unless it’s with relatives or companies you have worked with in the past. Otherwise, that’s when the bells and whistles should go off.”
But scams are always evolving.
“Cash cards are available at a lot of the major stores,” Gross said. “You can buy one of these cards and put money on it and it is just like a debit card. The scammer will ask you to buy one of these and then furnish them with the account number.”
No matter the methods, the scam remains basically the same.
“There is always a new scam,” Gross said. “The key is they all call for sending money in a way you probably haven’t used before. If they are calling for a wire transfer or a cash card and it’s someone you don’t know, it is very probably a scam.”
Gross also said a growing criminal trend in Jamestown is home invasions looking for prescription drugs.
“Half the criminal drug cases now involve prescription drugs,” he said. “People too often leave doors unlocked. Someone comes along and knocks and if there is no answer goes in. They walk past the TV, they walk past cash on the dresser. They take the medicine from the bathroom.”
Criminals looking for prescription drugs may target elderly people because they take more prescriptions than other age groups, although the crime has occurred in residences of all ages in Jamestown. Gross said some prescription drugs can sell for as much as $80 per pill on the illicit market.
Older people are also at risk for abuse, according to Carrie Thompson-Widmer, regional aging services program administrator for the South Central Human Service Center.
Problems often fall into the categories of abuse, exploitation, neglect and self-neglect, Thompson-Widmer said.
The most common situation is self-neglect such as not eating or taking prescriptions or not maintaining proper hygiene.
About 66 percent of people in an abusive situation are women with the incidence of problems two or three times higher in women over the age of 80.
Thompson-Widmer said abuse of elderly people often goes unreported because people don’t know who to contact.
“Anyone can report a case of abuse or neglect,” she said. “If it is life-threatening call 911. Otherwise call the human services center.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org