Homeland Security official advises seniors on avoiding scams

Thursday September 20, 2012

LANESBOROUGH -- Seniors are often the targets of unscrupulous scammers looking to swindle money.

On Wednesday, a federal Department of Homeland Security investigator gave a group of older Lanesborough residents advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of this type of crime.

The first recommendation?

"Go with your gut," Timothy Irving told the dozen or so people at the Lanesborough Town Hall. "If it doesn’t feel right, go with that feeling."

Irving said people should call police if they think someone’s trying to scam them.

"If you see something, say something," he told the seniors

Lanesborough Police Chief F. Mark Bashara agreed.

"Don’t be afraid to make the call" to the police, Bashara said. "Put the work on us."

Irving said scams come in many forms: via email, over the phone and through the mail. Many scams originate outside the country, typically in Jamaica and Canada.

According to Irving, the most prevalent scam of late involves an email that suggests the recipient has a relative who has been jailed, sometimes in a foreign country, sometimes stateside, and need money to get out.

"Unless you hear from that relative, don’t send money," Irving warned.

Other scams involve "secret shopper" job offers, fake lotteries that claim if you send them a certain amount of money they can release your winnings, and telemarketers who try and get personal information.

Another is the "Nigerian Prince" scam: A victim is told that a member of Nigeria’s royal family needs help smuggling a fortune out of the country, and if the victim sends a certain amount of cash, they will receive a percentage of the prince’s fortune.

"The Nigerian prince doesn’t have any money," joked Irving. "He’s broke."

Those who fall victim to a scam rarely get their money back, Irving said.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Lanesborough Police Investigator Timothy C. Sorrell.

Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the Council on Aging in conjunction with the police department.

One of the residents who attended the event, 82-year-old Jim Ostrander, said he thought the presentation was helpful.

A self-proclaimed "computer nut," he said he has received many scam emails but always "throws them out."

"I don’t even open them," Ostrander said.


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