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Home News-Telegram News Beware: Multiple scams reported as targeting local elderly

Beware: Multiple scams reported as targeting local elderly

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Local residents beware, as a few telephone scams have targeted local individuals over the last couple of weeks. The targets so far seem to be primarily older residents, but police remind all of the importance of guarding their personal information to prevent monetary loss and identity theft.

One scam involves people calling, pretending to be a relative seeking funds after becoming involved in a situation requiring money in another country.

James Diamond, a local resident and pastor, Tuesday reported both he and a friend who lives in Yantis have been the targets of such scams. The friend got as far as wiring the money before following up on his suspicions, but luckily was able to stop the transaction before losing his money.

Diamond noted that while his grandson was in Austin on a mission trip, he received a call from someone pretending to be his “best looking grandson.” The number on the caller ID showed 706-705-888 and was listed as from a Google Guy.

According to Google Support, “If you are utilizing a Google Voice account with the same username as your Gmail account, then your Google Voice number will show in caller ID to those you call. If you do not use Google Voice, then (760) 705-8888 will show to those you call in caller ID.” 

So, essentially, the call could have been from anyone using a Google account from anywhere in the U.S.

Diamond said he immediately became suspicious of the caller because he didn’t sound anything like his grandson, and didn’t give his grandson’s name, just a vague description. But, he continued the call to see what the person was after.

The caller continued, explaining that on a day trip to Mexico City the taxi he was in was busted for drugs. He was being requested to testify, but would have to post a $1,000 bond, and he needed his grandfather to wire him the money. Suspicions fully stirred, Diamond continued to go along with the call.

However, Diamond caught the caller off guard by asking “What’s your little brother’s name?” When the man said, “Mikey,” Diamond said his suspicions were confirmed and the call was terminated.

Diamond said while talking to a friend from Yantis, he learned the friend too had been targeted with the exact same scam. But, the friend went so far as to wire the money to the “grandson.” However, while on the way home, his suspicions got the better of him and he contacted his grandson, who was exactly where he should be, not in need of bail money. He went back to the store and was able to cancel the wire transfer before it fully went through.

Diamond contacted the News-Telegram Tuesday morning in hope of spreading word of the scam to prevent others from becoming victims to it. 

“I’m afraid they’ll call and somebody will fall for it,” Diamond said.

On Monday, the director for the local Senior Citizens Center put out a warning cautioning all local residents, especially the elderly, to be aware of a telephone scam that’s targeted local residents too.

“Some of my seniors are getting calls and are being told that they have won a government grant because of their low income for the last few years,” noted Karon Weatherman, program and marketing director for the SCC center in Sulphur Springs.

“Please let the public know that there is a scam going on right now. I don't want anyone getting scammed, especially not any of my seniors.”

In this particular scam, the caller asks the resident who answers for bank account numbers so that they can deposit $9,000 into their account. To seemingly authenticate the claim, the individual is geven a “confirmation number” by the supposed government representative. The phone number, which shows up on caller ID or given as a contact number starts with the 202 area code, an area code for Washington, D.C., which seemingly lends even more credence to the claim.

However, there are a number of red flags in this scenario which should alert the resident the call is most likely a scam. 

First and foremost, the government doesn’t call offering money. Government agencies send official notices by mail. Also, any assistance provided by the government, including grants, is generally awarded by the agency only after copious amounts of documentation and forms have been filled out.

Award notifications are generally sent via U.S. mail as well. Any phone contact is generally initiated by the person requesting assistance or the person who has received notification of the award. 

Also, anytime someone calls asking for personal information, especially account and bank numbers, it’s generally a scam. Local law enforcement, government agencies and consumer groups frequently warn citizens not to give out personal information over the phone, especially account numbers, personal ID numbers and passwords.

Sulphur Springs police Tuesday morning noted that they’d been contacted a number of times over the last three weeks by city residents reporting attempts at phone scams and phishing for personal information. Officers warn people should be wary of any unsolicited offers of services or monetary or other expensive rewards. Always keep in mind, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And, if you have to pay to collect those types of unsolicited rewards, they’re not free and most likely are a scam. 

Also, as a general rule, people should not give out any personal information over the phone unless they have personally made the call to the organization or agencies during that call. Identify thieves are always looking for creative ways to get people’s names, date of birth, Social Security numbers, checking and other account numbers, and access to other personal information.

These types of scams, whether via telephone, unsolicited mail, in person or email are generally conducted  by people from far away areas and are very hard to catch in part due to the multiple jurisdictions involved as well as the cunning way in which they are executed. Once the funds are gone, they are rarely if ever recouped. Thus, people are warned to be leery of such offers and guard their person information.

Hopkins County sheriff’s investigators Monday evening said they haven’t received any calls recently reporting these particular types of scams, and anyone who is the victim or target of these or other types of scams  is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s office at 903-438-4040 or their local law enforcement agency to let an officer check it out.

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