Investigators with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office have received an increasing number of complaints from victims of financial scams in Florence County over the past several months. The scams take several forms and seem to target the elderly who are particularly trusting and vulnerable to these types of coercion.
One particular type of scam involves email messages over the internet from what appears to be a law enforcement agency (FBI, CIA or Department of Justice) informing the victim that they have committed some type of internet crime. The scam goes on to say that the payment of a fine by way of a credit card will resolve the matter. Replying to this email can result in a computer virus which can only be repaired by a trained computer professional. Praying on the decency and respectability of many elderly individuals, these scam artists are too often able to extort money from some of the most vulnerable in our community. Simply stated, any email, regardless of how seemingly official or legitimate it is, alleging that you have committed an internet crime should be ignored. Rest assured, if you are the target of a legitimate internet criminal investigation, you are going to be contacted in person and will not be able to buy your way out of it with a credit card or a check.
Another rouse is a Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam through the mail and sometimes in conjunction with telephone calls. The scam goes like this. You have just won a large sum of money, usually over $100,000.00 (possibly into the millions) and that in order to claim the prize, all you have to do is send a small handling or processing fee and your prize will be sent to you! What could be easier, right? Problem is, after you send the handling fee, you will be asked to send more and more, and there is no prize at the bottom of this Cracker Jack box. Some scammers make repeated and demeaning, sometimes threatening telephone calls and either offer or threaten to come to your house to collect the fee or if you don’t send more money. All of these calls should be ignored.
Other victims are reporting a growing number of mailings about joining a club or secret society that will earn them vast sums of money. The initial mailing will not ask for anything other than feedback on some issue along with your name and address. Once the scammers know that they have a live person responding, they continue to send mailings or make direct telephone calls asking for money in order
The way these scammers prey on the elderly is particularly heinous. Scammers know that elderly victims have saved money all their lives and usually have liquid assets. These victims are typically trusting and easily swayed or scared into providing money or information. In addition, once victimized, they are hesitant and often embarrassed to advise their relatives or law enforcement that they have been duped. Unfortunately, this allows for their continued victimization.
The scammers are almost impossible to track or trace, and many originate outside the United States, so there is little that local law enforcement can do. The best way to protect yourself against these scams is not to be taken in in the first place. The chances that you are the winner of a sweepstakes or lottery you have never entered, or that a total stranger will offer you secret investment advice or knowledge, are somewhere between doubtful and nonexistent.
“We urge all Florence County residents to avoid being scammed by ignoring “get rich quick” schemes and “money for nothing” scams,” Sheriff Kenney Boone stated. “As our parents always told us, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be a victim.”