By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Phone scams targeting elderly in Forsyth
Authorities: Education more practical than enforcement

FORSYTH COUNTY — It’s not a new phenomenon, authorities say, but callers creating fake scenarios to scam people out money and personal information is “always there” and “always evolving.”

And Forsyth County is not immune, especially around the holidays.

While the “vast majority” of phone scammers target the elderly, anyone can get a call from an unknown number asking for money, said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Detective Frank Karic. There are variations to all of the scenarios, but they tend to follow along the same lines.

Callers may say there is a warrant out for a person’s arrest for missing jury duty or failing to pay a traffic ticket, Karic said.

“The trick with any of these is to get someone invested in it,” he said. “That’s immediately threatening someone to their arrest. Once they’re invested, they set the hook, giving them the hope they can get out of it, they can make it all go away. Just go get a green dot card and give the number.”

He said scammers have “been very successful.”

“They tend to target elderly folks, who may be hard of hearing or who don’t have a lot of contact with their families,” Karic said. “They’ll say, ‘This is your grandson. I’ve been in a car wreck and I need some money wired.’ Or ‘I need money for bond’ or some type of emergency situation.

“They’re really good at seeking out a particular type of victim. They prey upon the elderly, who may not have a great working knowledge of this generation and technology.”

But scam calls affect more than one age group, as long as they have a phone.

Secret shopper scammers or other Craigslist ads often tell people to give their account number, and a certain amount of money will be deposited to use for an undercover shopping mission. But extra money will be taken out of the account, sometimes liquidating the balance.

Another trending scam can be found when people sign up for a service or software to clean their computer but need account information to do so.

“White collar crime is the crime of the day,” Karic said. “But the enforcement is so difficult that, even if we have jurisdictional powers, the technical resources make it almost impossible because it so often goes beyond the state and country.”

He cited the fact that many of the callers use randomized call-back numbers and are located in a different country.

If enforcement has its limits, the biggest impact can be prevention through education.

“If nothing else,” Karic said, “slow down and think about it. There’s no arm in any government that’s going to subject you to arrest the first time you hear of [a situation].”

He said if the scenario involves a bank account — as opposed to a green dot card — the first thing a victim should do is contact the bank “because there’s still the potential for it to be stopped. Report it to law enforcement as a secondary or if you’re in physical danger.”

Green dot card scams are usually harder to regain lost money because it “generally goes out of the state or overseas.”

Embarrassment stops more people from coming forward, Karic said, but doing so can protect their money in the future. The specific types of schemes are constantly evolving, often with current events or financial news.

As further protection, getting on the National Do Not Call List only goes so far, he said.

“If they’re not afraid to break the law and steal your money, they’re not going to be afraid to break the Do Not Call List,” Karic said. “I see cases every day.”