Shifty money-making scammers have been preying on elderly citizens in recent months, and police are cautioning residents not to accept an offer from any stranger that sounds too good to be true.
Although many incidents go unreported to police because the victims may be embarrassed or confused, some recent scams in Morgan Hill have bilked victims out of thousands of dollars, according to Morgan Hill police Sgt. Troy Hoefling.
A common variety of scheme that police think happens more often than reported is the “distress” scam, in which a frantic telephone caller identifies himself or herself as the victim’s grandchild or relative who has fallen into trouble in a foreign country, Hoefling explained in a press release.
“(The caller) then pleads with you to wire money immediately and, whatever you do, not to ‘tell mom and dad,’” Hoefling said.
In May 2012, a Morgan Hill man sent money to a fictitious real estate company with the understanding the company would list and sell his time share property in Nev., police said. The victim received a phone call from an individual from Great West Funding inquiring about the time share he had for sale. During the conversation, the individual told the victim that they already collected $3,000 from prospective buyers but they would need him to sign a contract and make a payment in the amount of $2,175.
In another scam reported in March 2012, a Morgan Hill woman received a letter from International Payments Group stating she was entitled to $125,000 dollars, police said. The victim advised there was a check included that she was to cash. The victim contacted the phone number on the letter and spoke with an individual who told the victim to cash the check and transfer the money via Western Union. The victim transferred money from her checking account prior to confirming the check had cleared. When the victim checked their bank account, she was advised the check she deposited was fictitious and she owed $4,000.00.
“Police do not know why specifically different groups are targeted; however, they feel it has mostly to do with the trusting nature of the elderly community,” Hoefling said. “Aside from being taken advantage of and feeling embarrassed, the victims are also upset because many are on a fixed income and the money they lose is seldom, if ever, recovered. We do what we can to investigate these cases. However, many times there are not many leads and finding the suspect or suspects is almost impossible. We attempt to prevent these crimes through education and hopefully get the word out that these scams are out there and people should be cautious about their money.”
“If you are approached by a stranger offering to give you large sums of money in exchange for a lesser amount, you should decline the offer and call your local police department immediately,” Hoefling added. “Deals that sound too good to be true usually are, and they are mostly a scam in disguise. Be a good witness. Obtain descriptive information of the suspects and vehicles if possible.”
Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a scam can call Morgan Hill police at (408) 779-2101, or the anonymous tip line at (408) 947-7867.