12 ON YOUR SIDE ALERT: Senior fraud on the rise

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Better Business Bureau is putting out a warning that senior fraud is on the rise.

"It could be that the economy is off and the bad guys need to raise more money just like every carpenter, car salesman and everybody but it just seems to be more and more vicious things," said BBB President and CEO Tom Gallagher.

There's not just one way crooks are targeting the elderly, but the BBB says be on the look for bogus IRS calls, senior romance scams, psychic schemes and Craigslist deceptions.

"There is only one way I know to protect and that is with increased attention more information, more education and then you and I, we all have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters or our older aunts, uncles and grandparents," he explains.

The BBB has a Senior Fraud Hotline. If you think you are the victim of a scam or you have a problem, workers want to hear from you. The number is 804-780-2222.

"We will take the complaint and find out if there is anything going on and if there is any chance we can help you out," said Gallagher. 'My folks have gone to the banks to try and stop folks."

Protecting the public is a full time job and there is never a shortage of work for staff at the BBB. When it comes to seniors, Gallagher says check on them and ask questions about their daily activities. And if you're senior, he says don't be afraid or embarrassed to report fraud. "When you are older you are lonely, you don't have the same activity going on or the same friends and the con man and the con woman knows that," he says.

Another layer of protection, visit the BBB's website for a rundown of latest scams making the rounds. The following are recent cases of senior fraud in Central Virginia under investigation by the BBB:

Bogus IRS Call: A senior received a call from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service and the senior's Caller ID showed an actual IRS telephone number.  He was told he was due a tax refund in the amount of $2,187.  However, the caller said the refund would not be sent until the senior first paid $187.  That money, the caller explained, had to be forwarded to another agency.  In this situation, "call spoofing" was involved.  Call spoofing is when a person or business calls and their phone number is disguised on the caller ID.  Sometimes it appears as "UNKNOWN".  Other times, it may appear as a different phone number, even one in your calling area.  Call spoofing may be used to avoid having a call traced.

Senior Romance Scam: A resident in a seniors community had become attracted online to a man claiming to be serving with the military in Afghanistan.  After a series of emails, the senior was asked to email the army requesting leave for the soldier.  She did so.  She received a reply from someone claiming to be a colonel.  He advised her to wire $1,650.  She was told the money would be returned once the soldier was out of the war zone.

Psychics: One senior complained that she is overwhelmed with correspondence from psychics.  She admitted responding to one letter and sending in $10 several months ago.  That single response likely led to the deluge in mail.

Power Wheelchair on Craigslist: A senior advertised his late-wife's power wheelchair on Craigslist.  He received an email from an interested buyer who said he would be sending a check for $3,100 which was more than the advertised price of the chair.  The senior was instructed to deposit the check and wire $1,500 to a moving company to pick up the chair and deliver it out of state.  He deposited the money and wired the $1,500, as instructed.  Nine days later he learned the check had bounced.  He was out $1,500.

Consumer scams, including cases of senior fraud, should be reported to the BBB at 804-648-0030 or through its website at http://richmond.bbb.org/

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