From Issue: Volume XX - Number 22
The Long Beach Police Department is warning the community about scams committed via email, telephone, and in person, designed to entice victims to give money or disclose personal information to allow the suspect access to the victim's finances. These scams have claimed victims, not only in the Los Angeles area, but nationwide.
The following scams are variations on frauds that have been around for years:
The victim receives an official-looking letter informing them that they are the winner of a cash prize, but are asked to keep this confidential as part of a security protocol until the claim is processed. Included with the letter is a check payable to the victim with instructions to deposit it and immediately wire money to another location (usually outside the U.S.) to cover the taxes or other fees. The suspect hopes to get the wired cash from the victim before the bank notifies the victim that the deposited check is counterfeit or stolen.
Several varieties of scams will arise following disasters like Hurricane Sandy and other catastrophes. Some scammers will call or email people fraudulently soliciting donations for an aid group claiming to help those affected by the disaster. Other scammers will mail, email, or phone potential victims claiming that the victim is the closest living relative of someone who perished in the disaster, and is now the recipient of an insurance settlement related to the deceased. As in the lottery scams, the suspect may request the victim make a payment to cover fees or taxes, or request the victim provide their banking account information so that the settlement money can be electronically transferred into the victim’s account. The suspect can now access the victim’s bank account and withdraw their money.
Sometimes after scam victims have already lost money, the same suspects will pose as federal agents investigating the crime and re-contact the victim. The "agents" advise the victims to make an additional payment to the suspects so they can apprehend them and return the victim’s money. The victim loses again.
JAMAICAN SWITCH/PIGEON DROP SCAMS
Both of these scams are similar in that multiple suspects are used to carry out the scam. The victims are convinced to provide cash or something of value to show they are trustworthy in order to be the recipient of cash that the suspect is going to share. Usually one or more suspects with a foreign accent approaches the victim with a story that they need to return to their country of origin but have received a large sum of cash which will be confiscated upon entry to their country. The suspect offers to pay the victim for a ride to a location where they can donate the money, and as the victim is asked for proof of their trustworthiness, another suspect, posing as a bystander who overheard the conversation, offers to drive to his own bank to withdraw a significant sum of money as proof he can be trusted. The suspects and victim then drive to the victim’s bank so the victim can also withdraw cash to prove the same. When the victim shows the suspect the money, the suspect holds the bundle of money, sometimes covered with a "prayer cloth," prays, and switches the bundle with another bundle before returning it. Once the suspects leave, the victim opens the bundle only to discover fake money or rolled up paper inside.
Although not as common as the previous three scams, an additional scam targeting the elderly has also been reported:
RELATIVE IN DISTRESS SCAM
An elderly victim receives a phone call from a young man who poses as a grandchild and says he is in Canada where he was involved in an accident or is in jail. He says he doesn’t want his parents to know and asks the victim to wire money to help him. He then says his public defender will call. A second suspect then calls and tells the victim where to wire money to help the grandchild.
Telemarketing and Internet scams are also widespread and happen every day. With the exception of Internet related crimes, these scams are only handled by the Police Department if the victim has lost money, in which case they should be reported to the Forgery Fraud Detail at (562) 570-7330. All scams and crimes occurring over the Internet should be directed to http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. Incidents of attempted telemarketing fraud, including those from entities in foreign countries, should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission which provides a complaint form on their website, www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/. To learn more about international fraud schemes, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre40.shtm
Residents are encouraged to take preventative measures and remove their information from telemarketing lists by registering their telephone numbers on the “Do Not Call List” at www.oag.ca.gov/donotcall. Elderly relatives and neighbors should be alerted of these scams, screen phone calls, and if contacted by solicitors or anyone requesting personal information, should state they are not interested and hang up. Allowing the caller to engage one in conversation only opens the door for them to try additional tactics of persuasion. If you know of a senior that has fallen victim to a scam and needs guidance to resources, please call the Long Beach Police Department’s Senior Police Partners at (562) 570-7212.
Use common sense if contacted by anyone you don’t know who asks for money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information, contact the Long Beach Police Department’s Forgery/Fraud Detail at (562) 570-7330.