The Los Altos Police Department has warned that more and more scammers are targeting senior citizens.
A recent incident, they said, involves a 58 year-old woman having received a mail notification that she’d won $250.000 in a New York City-based lottery. That woman, Ellen Schwartz, said the never entered to win a prize.
To make matters more confusing, the correspondence included what looked to be a legitimate check for just under $5,000. The check was supposedly sent to cover money-receiving fees. But the letter did come with a catch. $3,800 of those funds would need to be sent via Western Union to cover prize-related taxes.
Schwartz said the didn’t trust it for a minute. Her bank identified the check as being fake and they contacted a local FBI field office. The matter is being investigated.
Los Altos Police officials said they are seeing a growing number of these types of scams. The criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their efforts. The city has a high number of affluent seniors, they said, and law breakers are trying to cash in on that.
These types of incidents are not isolated to the local area. They are reportedly taking place all over the country. In some cases the scammers seek less than $1,000. In others, victims have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is often difficult to capture, locate and prosecute the offenders. The best defense is common sense.
Local criminals have also posed as utility workers. They go door to door in hopes of gaining access to a person’s home. They are able to produce what seems to be official looking ID cards.
Law enforcement members warn that these types of scams are not just being committed by strangers. Family members have also been known to find ways to gain power of attorney in order to swindle relatives out of their life savings.
Los Altos Police are urging all elderly residents to have a heightened awareness that these crimes are being committed.