Our Palisades community is currently being targeted via the internet by skilled scam artists extorting tens of thousands of dollars from otherwise alert residents, some seniors, some local merchants, some parents or friends of community leaders.
These scams have been mostly hidden because the people duped are embarrassed to go public with what they consider stupidity on their part. They are not stupid at all, but they fell victim to very skillful psychological manipulations, drawing on their good heart and generosity to be helpful to others, or lured by large profits, and trusting those who they think are friends making recommendations to them.
The tragedy is that the trusted people and their phone numbers are shadowed, that is they are actually coming from and going to the scammer. While the scam is active, the actual phone number of the friend or relative is blocked on their phone and it appears to the victim to be out of service, preventing a successful call for confirmation.
First and foremost, do not respond to gift card requests (or pictures of such cards you have purchased) to send to anyone who you have not made contact with either by voice or by direct sight. Texting is not “talking” to your friend. A distorted or hard to hear voice is just that, a distorted voice of a scammer. Your grandson calling you from some distant prison, or a dear friend whose wallet was stolen in some distant country, is most likely comfortably at home resting peacefully. A picture emailed or texted to you is not “the person” you think you are in contact with.
Some calls in the past have pretended to be from relatives who claim to be in jail and need to be bailed out. Huge sums of money were sent in secret not to embarrass the grandson, daughter or other family member, until the victim found out that the supposedly jailed person is well and safe at home.
There are other scams with promises of huge profits, some claim to be a sizable inheritance where the taxes have to be paid up front, some are winnings with upfront taxes, some are investments in some charity where the return is enormous. All require untraceable cash transfers in form of gift card or direct money orders.
The outcome is the same: When the victims have made the payment, the scammers disappear into thin air. Once the money has been transferred, it is not recoverable.
If you are in communication with anybody that you cannot identify by sight or sound, don’t give out any information about yourself or enter into any agreements. If the offer or promise is too good to be true, it probably is.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.