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A summer of scams

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PRINCETON — Scammers don’t take summer vacations.

In recent weeks, Central Illinois residents have received medical alert services scams, FBI scams, and “relative in jail” scams ... to name a few.

In a recent press release, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alerted Illinois residents to be wary of unsolicited calls, specifically those advertising free medical alert services. Her office has received “a number of calls” in recent weeks from concerned Illinois residents, reporting solicitations for “Medi Alert” or other medical alert services, which many seniors use to call for help in case of emergencies.

One Princeton woman recently received two Medi Alert scam calls in one week. The first time the caller stated the woman’s family had already paid for the service, but additional information was needed. The Princeton woman knew her family had not done anything like that and hung up on the caller. With the second call, the Princeton woman hung up as soon as she heard the “medical alert” words.

“When you’re asked to provide personal financial information for a product you haven’t ordered, that’s a sure sign of a scam,” Madigan said. “Anyone who receives these calls should not provide their personal information, and they should hang up immediately.”

Another Princeton resident said he received a call saying his grandson had been jailed in Mexico and needed bond money. The man knew that was not the case and hung up.

On Thursday, Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said residents should contact their law enforcement if they receive any of these kinds of phone calls. Any and every offer or request needs to be verified, and that verification can be done through law enforcement agencies or the Better Business Bureau, Root said.

Unfortunately, scammers tend to target senior citizens who are retired and on fixed incomes, Root said, adding the scammer wants to get the senior citizen to think this is a way to increase their income.

In neighboring Putnam County, Sheriff Kevin Doyle issued a press release in June to inform citizens about a scam in which a county resident received a phone call from someone saying he was an FBI agent. The alleged agent told the citizen that she had won a large amount of money from a lottery but needed to send a $1,500 money order to Mexico City to receive the lottery winnings. Instead, the Putnam County resident contacted her local law enforcement agency.

The scam even included using the name of a Putnam County officer who was alleged to have confirmed the winnings, Doyle said. The citizen spoke with the deputy who confirmed he had never spoken to her before and that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office does not confirm winnings of any kind.

Citizens should not give out any personal information over the telephone or computer and no one should send money to an individual they don’t know, Doyle said.

On Friday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said scammers keep coming up with new and innovative scams that suggest they are legitimate, but the fact is they are anything but legitimate.

Thompson said he talked just last week with an area resident who had received a scam telephone call, and he told the resident to not carry on the conversation with the caller but to just hang up.

“Obviously scams are still a problem in the community,” Thompson said. “People can’t be naive when it comes to people offering too-good-to-be-true opportunities. Don’t have anything to do with anything that asks for a transfer of money or offers something free. Just don’t do it.”

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