(Photo for illustration purposes)
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – An elderly Safford woman was defrauded by nearly $1,200 after thieves in Mexico convinced her to send cash via MoneyGram.
According to a Safford Police report, relatives of the woman informed an officer that she had received a call Thursday, Aug. 2, from a man reporting to be a relative who was coming to visit.
The man told the elderly woman that he had gotten into an accident in Mexico and that he needed her to send $640 so he could repair the vehicle.
After the victim sent the money via MoneyGram, the man called again and said he needed an additional $500 to give to the other party involved in the accident or they wouldn’t let him leave. The woman then sent an additional $540 via MoneyGram to a business in Nogales, Sonora Mexico.
The woman’s relatives told police that she was in the early stages of dementia and didn’t realize that the relative the man on the phone was pretending to be was actually deceased.
The officer advised the victim’s relatives to block the phone number that had called asking for money and that because the scammers were outside of the country there was little law enforcement could do regarding prosecution for the crime.
Ten things you can do to avoid fraud
- Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
- Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
- Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first, you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.
- Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla. Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
- Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
- Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
- Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.
If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.
(source: Federal Trade Commission)