By Deb Miller, WV Senior Legal Aid Contributor
Charlie didn’t realize it but once he fell for the fake sweepstakes scam, he became a big target for many similar scams.
He was pleased to be a sweepstakes winner, so he bought the seven $50 gift cards as requested to cover handling costs for his great, but elusive, sweepstakes prize.
Charlie was anxious to make sure he would get the fabulous reward even though he couldn’t think of how he had even heard of the sweepstakes or had any memory of entering.
Charlie had no clue about it, but there is actually a “sucker list” industry that keeps track of scam victims. Criminals sell this information to other criminals because it’s a highly successful pathway for taking people’s money.
How could Charlie be fooled? Scammers find ways to make their victims feel good about the process that’s going on, even when frustrations occur. They also know what to say to eliminate suspicion. It’s happening this very minute to other unsuspecting Charlies and Susies and Annas.
You can avoid being scammed. When any so-called wonderful opportunity includes buying gift cards to assure that everything works out, slam the phone down! Delete that email! The gift cards are the signal that this is a big-time rip-off scam.
The use of gift cards assures that all your money will disappear. There will be no benefit for you at all, and you won’t be able to get your money back.
For those who believe it’s real, like Charlie did, other scammers will be happy to get your name and contact information. Whether the next one will be a tech support scam or a fake online sweetheart for you (another scam that often involves thousands of dollars lost and real heartache), the whole system is designed to take your money.
The scammer doesn’t care if he or she bleeds you dry. They will just move on to the next victim.
Many don’t realize that a side effect of several medications can decrease a person’s inhibitions. Without realizing it, a person can become less skeptical than before and more prone to taking risks than they would have been without that medication.
The medication and its new behavior can actually lower the barriers to accepting the scam. Yes, taking certain pills can help with medical needs while also making a person more gullible.
Family members and friends need to be aware of this potential side effect.
Also, many victims will do their best to hide that they’ve been scammed. They feel foolish and embarrassed. Many become very good at covering up multiple situations and keep believing it will work out.
Those who learn of the victim’s situation should remember that being judgmental will likely lead to having the victim shut them off.
Whether we want to believe it or not, any adult of any age can be scammed.
While some feel that they should always answer their phone and never screen their calls, scammers appreciate that attitude.
An answering machine can save you from being the next scam victim. If you are receiving a valid call, that person will leave a message. But most computers from call rooms don’t.
Also, to protect yourself against telemarketers (but probably not scammers), sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov.
Whether calling from Nigeria, Jamaica or just up the road, the scammers are thieves and know they are hard to catch. Avoiding them takes some effort, but it’s your hard-earned money on the line.
For free help with scams or other legal issues, state residents age 60 or older are encouraged to check with the West Virginia Senior Legal Aid hotline at 800-229-5068. The staff attorney will help you figure out what’s needed to handle the situation.