Beware of fraud; Mayor issues warning, AARP notes rise in Medicare card scams

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | MonroeNow | Aug 13, 2018

MONROE — The township’s mayor on Aug. 6 issued a word of caution to senior citizens reminding them to be mindful of scams that specifically target an older demographic.

“Senior [citizen] scams have happened of late,” said Mayor Gerald Tamburro. “We’ve had several incidents where people were taken for several thousands of dollars because people thought it was their grandchild or child and it was a scam.”

In July a Monroe resident was led to believe that she had won a $750,000 cashier’s check from Bank of America by a man named James McGille. To get that money, she was instructed to send money orders to Ken Peacock. She initially sent $930, but was told more money was needed. She subsequently sent four money orders, as requested, to Peacock totaling $4,032, including fees and mailing costs. It was her daughter who told her she had been scammed.

“Do not send money of provide confidential or personal information,” said Monroe Township Police Chief Michael Lloyd. “Contact a family member if they think a relative is in trouble and report the incident.”

Scams targeting elder citizens in the U.S. are all too common, but a growing number of people ages 30 to 39 years old, are also a prime target, according to statistics on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center database.

“They [scammers] know the scare tactics work, they know people can get panicked,” said Cristina Anastasio, the associate state director of community outreach at the AARP. “And they [seniors] have this pot of money. They are targets and [scammers] can actually take their finances. And historically, the 50 plus have fallen for it.”

According to a 2017 report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, residents at least 60-years old have lost more than $7 million. Broken down by age group, New Jersey residents have been scammed out of $28,836,753. The site also provides information to help determine if you’ve been scammed.

Nationwide, according to statistics from the Federal Trade Commission one in five Americans were scammed collectively losing $328 million.

“Every 2 seconds someone’s ID is stolen,” Anastasio said. “They know who you are. They use social media. Some people don’t know about the [social media] privacy settings. So ultimately, it [scams] sounds legitimate. They use that information and twist it and panic you. We recommend really tightening up those privacy settings.”

That is likely what happened to a Monroe resident who reported being scammed to police in July.

According to the police report, the Monroe resident reported being scammed out of $7,500 in Google cash cards. She told police that while her husband was in Canada, she received a phone call that he had been detained by Canadian authorities. To secure his release, she was instructed to purchase the Google cards from a Stop & Shop. She purchased the cards and read the numbers to the unidentified person over the phone. Afterward, she called her husband to make sure he was OK and alerted him to the scam.

Fighting back

Stopping scammers isn’t easy. They can use technology to hide where they are actually located. But a common deterrent that law enforcement agencies and the AARP preach is awareness and education.

“We try to educate our residents via community meetings with members of our Detective Bureau, by issuing PSA’s [via] Nixle messages and by working with banks and other businesses that sell money orders, Visa gift cards, etc. so they notify us if they believe the customer may be a victim of a scam,” said Michael Lloyd, the Monroe Township police chief.

Though they AARP caters traditionally to the senior population, when it comes to combating scams, its services are open to anyone through its Fraud Watch Network. The website offers information about the latest scams, such as Medicare card frauds, and other resources to help keep consumers and residents

“We try to get them before [a scam happens,” Anastasio said. “We use our Fraud Watch network, which has a scam tracking map. And if you think you’re being targeted you can call a professional.”