Scammers are determined and creative, seniors warn | Local News

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After the family of a Blue Earth County man who had been the victim of scam calls began blocking phone numbers, a taxi driver showed up at his door.

A scammer hired the cab to drive to the man’s home, county adult protection officer Kristie Pittman said Wednesday.

The scammer then asked the taxi driver to put the resident on the phone. The taxi driver could hear the scammer asking the resident to go to a store to get $1,500 in gift cards.

“It’s how creative they get. That’s how determined they are,” Pittman said of scammers during a presentation teaching seniors how to identify and avoid common scams.

The taxi driver knew that gift card requests were a common scam tactic and ended the call.

“If anyone ever asks you to go buy a gift card, it’s a scam,” Pittman told seniors who took the course at Vine Adult Community Center.

Other common red flags of a scam, participants learned, include being contacted unexpectedly, being asked to send money, a check or money order in order to receive a prize , and being threatened or coerced into sending money or personal information.

Mankato Public Safety Detective Tiffany Blaschko and Blue Earth County District Attorney Pat McDermott co-led the class, and they had two common pieces of advice: take a moment to think before giving out personal information or money from someone you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t know if someone is a scammer.

They said thieves tend to pressure people to act quickly before they have time to consider whether they might be scammed.

“Always take your time. Stop and think about what you’re doing,” McDermott said.

If in doubt, class leaders suggest people contact a family member or banker, who is likely aware of common scams. Blaschko said people are even encouraged to call 911.

“Please don’t feel like you’re bothering us,” the detective said. “That’s absolutely what we’re here for.”

Class leaders said they have seen a rise in romance scams as people become more isolated and spend more time online during the pandemic.

“I’m not saying don’t go online,” Pittman said. “I’m saying if you contact someone online for friendship or romance and they ask you to send them money, they’re scamming you.”

The “grandparent scam” is becoming less common but still happens, the presenters said. This is when a thief calls pretending to be a grandchild or calling on behalf of a grandchild who needs money to get by, like bail to get out from prison.

Blaschko said she was involved in a case where the scammer even knew the grandchild’s name and the grandchild was out of town on vacation. Social media pages can provide scammers with this type of information.

“They did their homework,” she said.

Pittman said young adults are actually the most frequent victims of scams. But older people lose more money when they are victimized.

“There’s a lot of wealth in the older population,” Pittman said. “Scammers know this, so they really focus on how to get to your vulnerabilities.”

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