© Dave Mathieson - Amherst Daily News
March is Fraud Prevention Month, and Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department says fraud is quite common in Amherst. He warns, “If it seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
AMHERST – It’s Me.
The ’It’s Me’ fraud is just one of many frauds that have circulated through Amherst to separate the elderly from their money.
“We had a person here in Amherst lose about $1,000 to the ‘It’s Me’ fraud, or what is also known as the Emergency fraud or Grandparent fraud,” said Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department.
How the ‘It’s Me’ fraud works is a fraudster will look in the phonebook for an old-fashioned first name, call the number, and then say, ‘Hi, It’s me.’
If a grandparent answers the phone they might respond by saying their grandchild’s name.
For example they might say, “Billy?” and then the fraudster will say, “Yes, It’s Billy,” developing a rapport.
“They will say that they’ve been arrested in, let’s say Ontario, for drinking and driving, and ask if money can be wired for bail, then the grandmother will go wire the money through Western Union,” said Wood. “Once they get the money they call back and say there were drugs in the car and they have legal fees to pay and ask for another $1,000.”
March is Fraud Prevention Month, and Wood said there are many other frauds people in Amherst have fallen victim to.
– $100 Million Fraud
There is the $100 million fraud where the fraudster says in an email that a multi-millionaire has died and there is nobody to inherit the money, it is being given away. The email says they will receive money for a fee.
“A lot of times what happens is that a person will wire $5,000 and then the fraudster will say they have another fee and ask for $10,000,” said Wood. “Once they get someone on the hook they will try to up the amounts.
“The victim ends up sending multiple amounts of money. It can total ten, twenty or thirty thousand dollars,” added Wood. “We have seen it here in Amherst where it’s well over $10,000.”
– Lottery Winner Fraud
There is also the lottery winning fraud where the fraudster says lottery winners are going to give their fortune away.
“There was a couple in Truro who won millions. They told the media they were going to give much of their winnings away,” said Wood. “Fraudsters sent emails to thousands of people saying the winners in Truro are giving their money away, which was true, and the email provided online links people could go to verify that the lottery winners are giving the money away.”
People went to the media sites, which only re-enforced their hope the story was true. They then sent a fee requested in the email hoping to receive lottery winnings in return.
“We had someone who was a victim of that (the Truro) fraud here in Amherst,” said Wood.
– Microsoft Fraud
Another fraud to avoid is the Microsoft fraud.
“A person phones saying they’re from Microsoft and says you have a virus on your computer,” said Wood. “They will then ask the person to go click on certain links, and they end up installing a back door to their computer so people can have access to the it.”
When it comes to fraud, Wood says if it seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
“A fraudster calls thousands of people. Most people hang up in his face but with one or two calls he can make thousands of dollars.
“If you have any negative feelings, just step back and say, ‘I’m not going to talk to you now,’ and terminate the call,” said Wood. “The fraudster doesn’t want you to terminate the call or talk to somebody else because everything is impulse. They want you to act now.”
Wood also said it’s important to delete emails that seem fraudulent.
Other frauds Wood talked about are:
– The Vacuum Cleaner Scam
Wood says the vacuum cleaner scam isn’t illegal but it does prey up the elderly.
“They put things in doors where you have a (lottery) ticket that says you win, and that yu have to call for the prize,” said Wood. “When you call to claim your prize they say you can collect it if you allow a vacuum salesman come to you door. The salesman comes to your home and you end up paying $1,500 for a $100 vacuum.”
– The Door to Door Overpriced Scam
“Let’s say I’m selling a truck and want $30,000 for it. The fraudster comes over and gives me a cheque for $32,000,” said Wood. “He says sorry, ‘my wife made the cheque out for the wrong amount, how about you cash the cheque for $32,000 and give me $2,000.’”
The person puts the cheque in the bank, the bank balance shows $32,000, they withdraw $2,000 and give it to the guy, and he’s gone and the cheque is a counterfeit cheque.
“So now you’re out the $2,000 you gave to him,” said Wood. “If someone offers you more than you asked for, don’t accept the cheque.”