Unfortunately there are many nefarious heartless persons who pray on our senior citizen community in economic scams. These scams can be costly, embarrassing and most importantly financially devastating. The San Francisco Police Department is committed to educated all of our seniors, their family members and any concerned neighbors of many of the ways con artist use to –get your money-. You may have a senior as a family member, neighbor or friend who might not have Internet access and would find this information useful. Please print these safety tips out for them.
As Captain of Mission Station I read all the reports that our Officers write. Many of the Economic Crime (fraud) reports have Identity Theft elements within them. I can not stress enough the importance of keeping your private information, just that, private. If you can afford a shredder I highly recommend using one. All bills, correspondence, any paperwork work with your name, address, bank account numbers or any private information on it should be shredded. If you can not afford a shredder then make sure you have cut up and destroyed this paperwork before placing it in your garbage or recycling. Thieves will go through your garbage looking for this information to obtain any information about you they can. Don’t give these people an opportunity to make you their next victim.
If you are on the Internet, never respond to any email you don’t recognize or have not solicited with your private information. This is also true for any phone call you may receive from a telemarketer. Always ask them for a call back number. Never give a phone solicitor your personal information if you are at all suspicious that they might not be legitimate. Call a friend or family member and ask their advice. Of course, all the members of Mission Station are here to give you advice in these matters.
Below are some, but not all, of the scams that these criminals will use to separate you from your money. I hope you find this formation useful.
DON'T GET TAKEN BY CON ARTISTS CON ARTIST are persuasive and persistent. The schemes describe here have many variations, but they all have the same goal:
GAINING YOUR CONFIDENCE AND TAKING YOUR MONEY.
This information is provided to help you identify fraudulent schemes; ways to avoid becoming a victim and whom to call if you believe you have been swindled by a con artist.
This scam usually involves 2-3 suspects working together to con you into believing they have found money, diamonds, gold bar, etc. They want to share it with you, but someone must hold the found item for a while before splitting it. You are convinced to withdraw ‘good faith’ money from your bank account to be combined with the suspect’s good faith money in a bag or handkerchief. The suspects switch the bag or handkerchief and disappear. They leave you with nothing but torn paper.
Very similar to Pigeon Drop, but a slight variation: You are approached by suspect-one who claims to have recently come to America with a large amount of cash to be delivered to a church or charity. Suspect-one then says he must then leave the country soon and asks you and suspect-two to deliver the money to him. You are asked to put up ‘good faith’ money to show you are honest. Suspects switch the money and disappear.
This suspect approaches you or may call you on the phone claiming to be a police officer that is investigating a bank employee for embezzlement. You are asked to go to the bank and withdraw cash so the officer can watch the bank employee. You are told to give the money to a “detective” who will return it to the bank for you. The suspects disappear with your money.
This scam often involves an elderly man (70+) who is befriended by a young woman. She convinces him that she truly cares about him and implies a romantic interest. She tells him she needs money for rent, food, furniture, and her business or that she needs surgery. She may swindle him out of his life savings, often causing him to file bankruptcy.
You may be approached at stores, hotels, restaurants, etc. or when you go to a ‘psychic reader’. The psychic convinces you that you have an evil curse or evil spirits that must be “cleansed”. Cleansing is an ongoing process that requires you to pay thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry, clothing, vehicles, etc.
Lost Pet or Lost Property:
You place an ad in a local paper about a lost pet or lost property. You then receive a call from a long-haul truck driver who found your missing item but he is not hundred of miles away. He will return your property (or advise of the location of your pet) after you send a “reward” by Western Union.
A ‘police officer’ calls you to advise he found your purse (often before you realize it is missing or have reported it). The “officer” needs your personal information for his report. You believing a police report is being taken provide your information and take no further action.
Both incoming and outgoing mail may be taken from your mailbox: Your checks are “washed” to remove payee and amount and altered so the suspect can cash them for more money. Your ATM and credit card numbers are picked up from your bills and used for purchases. Your credit card applications are taken and altered so the suspect receives a credit card in your name.
These suspects go door-to-door offering you a great deal on yard work, roof repair, chimney sweeping, house painting, etc. They may have “extra supplies” left over from their last job so they can save you money. At the completion of the work they claim they used more supplies or there was more work than anticipated so they demand more money from you. They can be very intimidating.
These suspects can include women with children. A suspect comes to your home and engages you in conversation while other (unseen) suspects enter your house through another door and take cash and property.
A suspect comes to your house claiming to be from a City or County agency or a utility company employee. He needs to come into your house to check for problems. Once inside your house, the suspect distracts you and takes cash and valuables.
You receive a call from someone who says you have won a Canadian sweepstakes, but you must pay Canadian taxes before the winnings can be claimed. You are told to send a cashier’s check or wire money via Western Union to them in Canada.
Purchased of Lottery Tickets:
You received mail or calls from a company “representative” who will purchase lottery tickets in another state for you (usually Florida) and send you photo copies of your tickets. (They keep the originals so they can collect for you if you win). You may write them monthly checks, allow them to debit your checking account or provide them with credit card numbers so they can purchase lottery tickets for you on a weekly basis.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF?
One of the biggest problems facing law enforcement in identifying and apprehending con artist is that the victims are reluctant to report crime because of embarrassment. This is what the con artist counts on. Don’t help them get away with a crime. The only way we can stop these criminals is if you make a REPORT. You weren’t their first victim and you won’t be their last! To report a crime, you can go to your district station or call:
SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT EMERGENCY 9-1-1 NON-EMERGENCY (415) 553-0123 TTY (415) 626-4357
OTHER SERVICES POSTAL INSPECTOR (MAIL THEFT) (415) 778-5900 STATE CONTRACTOR’S LICENSING BOARD (800) 321-2752