VACAVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) – Vacaville police officials are warning residents of common financial scams fraudsters are using on elderly victims after one of their community members was conned out of $40,000 over just a few days.
Police officials said the victim, who they referenced as Mr. B, received a call from someone claiming to be a Social Security Administration officer.
The scammer told Mr. B that his Social Security Number was used in bank fraud and he needed to obtain a new SSN, according to police.
To do so, the scammer instructed Mr. B to buy “Apple Security Cards”, which were Apple gift cards, and provide the numbers to the scammers.
Mr. B told police he also received images of documents with a Social Security Administration letterhead and was told to not talk about the case with anyone.
Police said Mr. B was threatened with arrest and was told officers would come to his house in the middle of the night if he did not purchase the gift cards.
Police described Mr. B as a non-native English speaker who was terrified of the threats.
Mr. B bought numerous Apple gift cards and gave scammers the card numbers as instructed, according to police.
After Mr. B gave the scammers all the funds he could, police said the scammers demanded Mr. B sell his car and send them the money, which he did.
Police estimate Mr. B lost about $40,000 over the course of a few days and is now suffering mental and physical health issues due to the scam.
Officers are investigating but said due to the nature of the scam, it will be “very difficult” to track down the fraudsters.
Police said scammers target elderly people who fraudsters believe are vulnerable, such as those who live alone or have recently lost a spouse and do not have experience handling their own finances.
Below is a list of common scams used on the elderly, according to police:
- Catfishing scam – Fraudsters pose as a romantic or friendly connection and eventually ask the target for money related to some type of emergency situation, such as bail or flight back to the U.S.
- Telemarketing or mail fraud – Scammers use the phone to sell elderly people products that never arrive or is junk.
- Phishing scam – Scammers use fake emails, calls or texts to steal a victim’s personal information for crimes related to identity theft.
- Social Security spoofing scam – This scam is what happened to Mr. B and involves scammers creating fear surrounding a victims’ Social Security Number status and often involves “caller ID spoofing” where police say the caller ID makes the call look like it originated from the Social Security Administration.
- Internet Fraud – Scammers convince the elderly victim to download a fake anti-virus program which allows the fraudsters to access their personal information.
- Fraudulent legal documents – Scammers threaten and intimidate elderly victims in signing over their power of attorney so they can seize the victims’ property.
- Texting scam – A simpler form of the phishing scam where fraudsters promise the victims a prize through text in exchange for personal information.
- Grandparent scam – Scammers pose as the victim’s grandchild and request money for an emergency such as rent, medical bills or car repairs, pleading with the victim to not tell their “parent.”
- Undue influence or fraud – Elderly victims are conned into giving over their personal property when scammers convince the action is somehow beneficial to the victim.
- Lottery scam – Elderly victims are told they have won the lottery or sweepstakes and in order to access the winnings that have to pay taxes or fees for the funds to be released.
- Home repair scam – Scammers target older resident neighborhoods and provide low quality home repair services in return for payment up front. In some cases, the tactic is used as a distraction so thieves can rob the victim.
Vacaville police recommends residents contact the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to be directed to local programs and services that help prevent elder abuse.
Police also said the VictimConnect Resource Center at 855-484-2486 helps victims with resources if a crime has been committed.