Last updated: Wed. Aug. 20, 2014 - 07:20 am EDT
In spite of a spate of warnings about scams committed against all sorts of area residents in all sorts of ways, some people still fall prey.
Two recent criminal investigations by the Fort Wayne Police Department underscore the potential financial damage caused by scammers to vulnerable adults.
In one instance, according to a police report, an elderly couple was taken for about $1,200 after a man claimed they won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
An 86-year-old woman told police she received a call Aug. 1 from a man with an accent, telling her she and her husband had won the $2.5 million grand prize. Her husband agreed to meet the man at the Walgreen and the CVS pharmacies at Paulding Road at South Anthony Boulevard.
At that meeting, the victim was instructed to give the man Green Dot money transfer cards totaling $1,200. The victim went to his bank and withdrew the money, put it on the cards and gave them to the man. The couple received an email from the scammer that appeared to contain legitimate sweepstakes information, according to the police reports.
According to information provided to The Journal Gazette from the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office, the scammer insisted the payments were required by the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. – $500 to the IRS for processing, certification and registration; $500 to the FDIC to secure the winnings; and $455 to insure the winnings, totaling more than the initial $1,200.
The second recent scam involved the “grandparent” swindle. According to a Fort Wayne police report, a woman told police she received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson. He told her he had been arrested for drunken driving after an accident.
He told her he needed her to send him $4,500 to cover insurance expenses. He promised her she would be reimbursed by a well-known insurance company within a few days, according to the police report.
The 88-year-old woman went to a grocery store and purchased a number of Green Dot money transfer cards and put $4,500 put on them. She called the man claiming to be her grandson back on the number he gave her and read him the numbers from the cards.
Later that day, the woman received another call asking for an additional $4,000 to cover the cost of his injuries. She was told to go to a different grocery store and put the money on more Green Dot money transfer cards, according to the police reports.
She did as she was asked, and again read the numbers back to the person over the phone. She told police she then waited to hear from her grandson. When she didn’t, she called him at the number she had for him and asked for an update. He told her he had not been in an accident, nor had he been arrested.
On their website, officials with the Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana urge area residents that the Green Dot money transfer cards are not in and of themselves scams.
The grandparent scam has been around for a few years and has been the subject of repeated warnings by the Better Business Bureau and area law enforcement. The Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes scheme was the subject of a late July bulletin from the Better Business Bureau.