Scammer Tricks

Older seniors are often targeted by scammers, whose first move is to win the trust of their targets. AARP ran a story a couple of years back about one scam that used a trick that bears repeated warning.

In the 876 scam, callers from Jamaica (area code 876) try to convince Americans they’re calling from a toll-free contest line and then trick them into paying a “deposit” for the prize. If you call one of these numbers back, you’re likely to be charged 50 cents a minute by your own phone company before the thieves even get their hooks in. Yet, what’s truly scary is how easily they can convince you that a Prize Van is almost at your door.

According to AARP, they’re using the 3D maps of Google Earth to discuss details of people’s neighborhoods. We think AARP may give them too much credit–they don’t even have to bother to go through the trouble of downloading Google Earth, when any mapping program will focus to a house level of detail. We doubt it’s only the 876 scammers who have figured that out.

So, Warning One: Whatever’s being pitched, from contest prizes to long-term care insurance, if a stranger offers friendly details (“I always loved your green shutters”), they may never have set foot in this country, let alone on your street.

Warning Two shouldn’t even need to be said, but (sigh) it always bears repeating. Be rigorous about your privacy settings on the ever-changing Facebook. If you must share family photos and private information on social media, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw in some fake details as scammer alerts. If someone tries to convince you they’re calling from a circling Prize Van, and mentions how you can use the money to take your granddaughter Guinevere on vacation; if you know that Guinevere’s your cat, you’ve got a fighting chance.

Thieves--actually not glamorous--or obvious.

Thieves–actually not glamorous–or obvious.