How my mom was almost scammed
It's funny how life turns around. When we're born our parents do everything for us; take care of us for years. At some point after we're long grown and our parents are getting up there, a time comes when you start to feel responsible for them. I had a taste of that this weekend.
I received a call from my mom who still lives in Union County where I grew up. She was shaken because she almost fell victim to a scam. She's on Facebook, and has the Instant Messenger app. Her brother Bob out of nowhere sent her a message this weekend. Odd because he rarely communicates this way, but that didn't send up a red flag for her.
He wrote, "Hi, how's the family?" A little strange since he is family. She wrote back saying things were relatively fine and asked how he was. He then asked if she got her package. She asked, "What package?"
He went on to explain that he had gotten a package from a government agency that is giving money to certain U.S. citizens and that he saw the 'list' and that her name was also on the 'list.' I think most of us at this point would immediately realize this was not Bob. My mom still believing she was messaging with her brother asked more about it. 'Bob' told her the FBI was sending money to certain U.S. citizens and that he had received over $300,000. She should be getting her package soon.
At this point she excitedly told my stepfather who told her to tell Bob this had to be a scam. He realized it was a fraud but even he didn't realize this was not Bob that she was chatting with. 'Bob' went on to reassure her this was no scam. This was legit. And here was a phone number for her to call to verify it.
She called the number. (Of course this was a huge mistake.) Her call went to voicemail and she left a message giving her name and saying she was contacted and told that her name was on a list and that she was supposed to be receiving money from the FBI. She asked if this were true or some kind of scam.
Naive to think a scammer is going to answer yes, this is a scam. The next day is when her phone started blowing up with calls from people with foreign accents. My stepfather handled the incoming calls, thank God. He could barely make out what they were saying due to the heavy accents but clearly it was all part of the same scam network. I don't know if it was going to be the kind of scam where they would ask for her social security number before they could send her her $300,000 or if they'd send a fake check for more than the amount she was owed and would be asking to return $10,000 in a real personal check. Whatever the fraud, they called back several times. The act of her calling that number I'm sure put her on a scam network's hot list of potential gullible marks. My stepfather said one of the calls had come from Boston.
I explained to him what spoofing is. That technology exists to mask your phone number and make the number appear to be coming from someplace it's not. A call that looks like it's coming from Chicago can be coming from Elizabeth, NJ. A call coming from India can appear to be a call coming from Linden.
It occurred to me right then that for all the scams we've heard of, for the ways they trick people like spoofing, many people and especially the elderly still haven't caught on. Talk to your parents and grandparents if you haven't. Explain to them all the scams you've heard of. All the ways they get away with it. Embarrassment may keep a lot of elderly people from even reporting being taken by a scam. They may not want to tell their own families. It's our job to look out for them. Like I said, it's funny how life turns around.
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