The kindness of strangers can mask identity theft

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, March 5, 2011

On the way home from work one evening, you stop by to visit your mother as you do almost every week. As you enter her home, she excitedly tells you she received a call that morning telling her she won $100,000 in a lottery. You’re immediately suspicious.

To be on the safe side, you caution your mother that there are many scams where identity thieves and criminals who commit financial crimes call and falsely tell unsuspecting individuals that they’ve won the lottery. You warn your mother that often the identity thieves and fraudsters will tell “winners” they must send money to pay taxes on the lottery winnings before the winnings will be sent to the “winner.” Your mother laughs and tells you she knows better than to send anyone she doesn’t know money by mail.

Just as you begin to let out a sigh of relief your mother continues. She tells you she doesn’t have to send any money to cover taxes as she provided the caller with her Social Security number because they said they would complete a “tax form” for her. As your heart sinks, she also informs you the caller was kind enough to let her know the “lottery officials” would provide her “winnings” by direct deposit into her checking account. She tells you it was all quite simple — all she had to do was read all the numbers off the bottom of one of her checks to the caller. And, just in case there was any difficulty transferring the “winnings,” she was asked to read the caller all the numbers on her checking account debit card along with her PIN.

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Unfortunately, as long as there have been identity thieves, they have always targeted senior citizens. In fact, many identity crimes, crimes of deception and financial crimes are traditionally aimed at our senior population as criminals believe seniors may be more susceptible to crimes of deception and the amount of money that can be stolen from a senior may exceed that of other segments of the population. If you receive a call like this make sure you report it to our local police department.

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