DA Rice: Senior Citizens Can Avoid Being Scammed by Following a Few Simple Safety Tips and Recognizing Red Flags

MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice today said complaints to her office regarding senior citizens being scammed have doubled since last year. To combat the uptick in scams, the DA is launching an educational campaign to help senior citizens protect themselves from those who prey on this vulnerable population. Her efforts will include an educational poster campaign that highlights the “red flags” to look and listen for when a scammer is attempting to fleece a senior citizen out of their money. Click here to read the entire press release issued by the DA's Office.

If you believe you have been the target of a scam, please contact the DA's Office at (516) 571-3505.

To schedule a presentation by the DA's Office on how to avoid being victimized by scammers, please contact the DA's Office at (516) 571-3343.

Below is a list of common scams that have targeted senior citizens:

  • PHONE CALL ASKING FOR BAIL: The request comes from a caller requesting a large sum of money in order to bail a grandchild or loved one out of jail. One victim of this scam said the caller concocted a whole story that her “grandson was with a friend driving in Buffalo, New York and crossed the Canadian border and was arrested for drug possession.” He instructed her to wire money to Canada to post bail.
  • EMAIL ASKING FOR BAIL: The request comes from a friend or loved one’s email address to wire money. Residents of Nassau County receive emails from the account of a friend or loved one claiming to be in another country and requesting a large sum of money for a plane ticket, bail money, or other emergency expenses. In reality, a scammer has obtained control of the sender’s email account and contact list/address book, and the victim sends the money directly to the scammer.
  • SWEEPSTAKES SCAM: The victim receives a letter stating that they’ve won a contest, often from a scammer using a variation of a legitimate organization’s name. Enclosed is a check, usually less than $5,000, drawn on an out-of-state bank account. The victim is instructed to call a phone number where they are instructed to deposit the check, saying the money is to pay the taxes on their prize, and wire the money back to the organization. The victim sends the money to the scammer, and then the bank dishonors the original check. The phone number scammers typically use in this scam has an Ontario, Canada area code.
  • SECRET SHOPPER SCAM: Victims responding to an ad for secret shopper employment receive a check in the mail for approximately $3,985 and are instructed to deposit the check into their bank account. The victims are told to conduct a survey of retail stores, for which they will “earn” $600 for their work. The last requirement is to send the balance of the initial check, approximately $3,000, to Canada or out-of-state via Money Gram or Western Union. The money is sent before the victim can be informed by their bank that the initial check was counterfeit. The thief is counting on the victim’s bank to make the money available before the check is discovered to be fraudulent.
  • BLOATED CHECK SCAM: The victim, typically someone selling personal property on a Web site such as Craigslist, is contacted by a “buyer.” The buyer sends the victim money orders for more than the purchase price, and then asks the victim to wire back the balance of the bloated check. Victims often find out too late that the initial payment is counterfeit, and they’ve just wired their own money to a scammer.
  • PHISHING SCAM: An email or phone call is received by the victim who is led to believe it came from their bank. The call or email asks for the victim to verify personal information such as Social Security number and account numbers. A legitimate bank will NEVER ask for this information.
  • JURY DUTY SCAM: Victims are contacted by phone by a caller claiming to be an officer of the court. The “officer” says the victim failed to show up for jury duty and a warrant has been issued for their arrest. Once the victim says that they never received a jury duty notice, the caller will ask for personal information to verify. The jury duty scam is on the rise.

Red Flags That a Scam is in the Works

Here are some red flags to look for to protect yourself from being scammed, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice:

  • Anyone you’ve never met or spoke to on the phone that is asking for money through the Internet or to be wired to them is scamming you.
  • Always thoroughly research anyone you meet on a social-networking or Internet dating website.
  • Be very suspicious if you are asked to send anything through a third party.
  • Be very suspicious if an email has misspellings, broken English, or any grammatical anomalies.
  • An Ontario, Canada area code