Brockton area elderly getting duped by con artists

Internet makes it easier for con artists to obtain victims’ information

Enterprise News, Massachusetts/September 29, 2013

By Maria Papadopoulos

Brockton -- The 92-year-old Brockton woman got the faraway call promising a new Cadillac and millions of dollars in April.

But there was a catch.

To see her winnings, she had to go to three different banks and open up separate accounts, then hand over her account information, which she did.

In the end, she was scammed out of more than $50,000, said Brockton Council on Aging Director Janice Fitzgerald.

“It’s truly like a brainwashing,” said Fitzgerald, who has reached out to authorities and the district attorney’s office to investigate the case. “It’s very hard to catch (scam artists).”

Authorities say scam artists often prey on the elderly, who are often vulnerable, lonely and trusting – but scams can reach victims of all ages.

And they’re advising consumers – amid a new wave of financial scams circulating by phone, mail and online – to hang up, shut it down or toss it out.

At once.

“Don’t deal with people you don’t know. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” said Easton Police Chief Allen Krajcik, whose department is among several across the region that have investigated scams over the years.

Area scams have run the gamut – ranging from con artists purporting to be banks and financial institutions that ask for personal information to be updated to door-to-door salesmen offering low-cost driveway paving on local streets.

Over in Stoughton, police have investigating several cases, said Deputy Police Chief Robert Devine.

“We have people get taken in by Internet phishing scams. We’ve had people make attempts to get into elderly people’s homes,” Devine said. “Here and there, people are asked to cash fraudulent checks and return a certain portion of it.”

About two weeks ago, a Stoughton resident received a call from someone claiming to be from the Bank of America, and asked the resident to verify their account information, Devine said.

Stoughton police then used social media – Twitter – to make the public aware of the bank scam circulating around town, he said.

“Every time we get wind of one of these, we try to make people aware that these attempts are being made,” Devine said.

But it’s often hard to catch and prosecute scammers, who often work their illegal craft from outside Massachusetts, officials said.

“They could be in another state or another country,” said Brockton Police Chief Emanuel Gomes. “The Internet has made the world very small when it comes to identity theft.

Someone can actually target you from another country and transfer bank accounts.”

Devine said that “can be difficult and it can be frustrating.”

“The Internet scams are the most difficult to prosecute because we’ve traced some of them back to Nigeria,” Devine said.

Officials said the calls often can’t be traced to anyone because the callers use prepaid cell phones with no personal information linked to the numbers.

Gomes said he’s been visiting the high-rise complexes in Brockton to warn the elderly against falling for scams. He said local residents should report any scam attempts to police.

Meanwhile, over at the Brockton Council on Aging, Fitzgerald said she has a notebook in which she documents each scam as it is reported to her by city seniors. The list, she said, is growing.

“It infuriates me to no end,” she said.

Recent scams in Brockton area

In July, a Scituate woman warned area residents of a telephone scam after a caller posing as a government employee tried to swindle her out of $850.

In June, Easton police warned residents to be on the lookout for door-to-door salesmen offering driveway paving, who would then pressure homeowners to go to the bank with them and withdraw money.

In May, a Pembroke man hurried to Western Union to transfer money, after receiving a frightening call during which he was told told his brother had been kidnapped and would be killed if his ransom wasn’t paid immediately, police said.

In April, an elderly woman in Middleboro lost $3,500 in a lottery scam during which she was told to buy CVS gift cards to access million of dollars, police said. The con artist ordered the woman to read the security code numbers on the back of the gift cards she bought, which gave him access to the money.

In March, a Brockton senior was scammed out of $450 because of a ruse involving the prepaid, Green Dot MoneyPak cards, available at many local pharmacies and stores. Officials said the scam involved a phone call to the senior saying the senior won a car or money. The caller then asked the senior to purchase a card and load the card with money as part of a way for the person to claim the prize. If seniors provide the pin number to the caller, the caller is able to access the money on the card.

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