BRICK – Preventing seniors from becoming the victims of fraud scams was the objective a special webinar run by several township police officers and hosted by Artis Senior Living of Brick.
Artis is an exclusive memory care community on Jack Martin Boulevard which is open for virtual tours and accepting new residents. Brick Police Sgt. Jim Kelly and officers Sean Flynn and Officer Brenden Barnes spoke during the Zoom meeting held on a recent afternoon.
A few key phrases were emphasized throughout the webinar: “Think before you click. When it doubt, keep them out. It is better to be rude than to be a victim of a scam.”
Megan Trapanese, the community relations director at Artis Senior Living of Brick said the facility opened in February and “we have a lot of growth going and are accepting new residents. We treasure the uniqueness of everyone that lives here.”
“We’ve done some work in the past with Artis and we are we wanted to do a presentation about scams – especially those that target seniors,” Kelly said.
“When these people contact you, they tell you not to tell anyone about the alleged prize or winnings that you are about to receive. It is a very common thing to tell you that you have won any prize and they don’t want you tell anybody because they are calling senior citizens and those would be the easiest victims,” Barnes said.
Barnes added that scammers pressure their target victims to act quickly and threaten legal proceedings if you don’t act quickly. “It is the pressure scam of saying right away ‘You need to do this.’”
“We all have to remember there is no such thing as free money. We tell people never to hesitate to call the police if you feel that you may be becoming a victim because every patrolman in this department has a story of someone who has given away up to $80,000 of their life savings just because they believed they would win a million dollars,” Barnes added.
The officers warned that you should never reveal sensitive information such as a social security number, bank information or personal information over the phone or in an e-mail to anyone that they don’t know.
“Once they have that information nine times out of 10 they will hang up on you as they have no further use of you,” Barnes added.
Should a caller harass you or threaten you with legal action or uses profanity if you don’t pay up that is another tactic they use to scare you. Just hang up. Never pay anything up front and the IRS or other agencies will never call you in relation to collecting money.
“By law it is illegal for anyone to have you pay ahead before you collect your prize. That would be the number one way to know this is a scam,” Barnes added.
Also watch for e-mails which include misspellings, poor grammar and fake looking logos. “You’d think these people who are stealing hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars would check their grammar but believe it or not they never do,” Barnes said.
The officers also warned potential victims to watch for how a scammer requests payment within their scheme such as through a wire transfer, pre-paid debit cards and other non-traditional ways.
Barnes said that some pharmacies in Brick are so used to this scam that they assist police. Seniors come in to purchase green dot cards which is one type of payment that the scammers want. “They will start questioning them like the police and they help us solve quite a bit of this before the people send the money out.”
Kathleen Barthel attended the webinar and shared her frustration and anger about her father being a victim of a scam and then a second attempt to go after him again. “Once they scam you, they will wait a couple of months and wait for your guard to be down and they will revisit you and that is what this piece of garbage did.”
In Barthel’s father’s case, the first time around the scammer took a screen shot of his bank account. Then they doctored it to look as if he had been over credited. The caller was asking him to “refund” the overpayment through four $500 Target gift cards.
Her 89-year-old father got in his car and he called her to tell him that the man on the phone was claiming he would lose his job unless the payment was made due to the error. “I told him ‘Dad you give him my land line and hang up.’”
Out of worry her father went to Target to purchase the gift cards though they were for only $50 each. “I called his credit card company and they said indeed after he bought the cards there was an attempted purchase of four $1,000 charges to Target. These people are masterminds. They were able to capture his credit card number,” Barthel said adding that they had been able to capture another credit card number as well.
“Fortunately, they were able to intercept the fraudulent purchases,” she said but she is still disputing all but one of the $50 Target gift cards with Target to get reimbursement. “I reported it to the Federal Trade Commission and filed a police report with the Lakewood Police Department. We have since gotten the computer out of my father’s house.”
Barnes said that “here at the police department we get a lot of these scam calls ourselves and a lot of our detectives will talk to these people on the phone and one day and one of our detectives said ‘You and I know I can’t track this call but I need to know what is going on and why are you doing this?’”
The man on the phone said they use the internet to call hundreds of people at once and whoever picks up first they will talk to. He said he was in an office building in Pakistan and he had made $80,000 that day. “He said he knew it was wrong but does it because that is how he pays for college.”