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Police: Senior Citizens, Beware of Scammers

A 91-year-old Fair Oaks man was upset and concerned recently when he got a call from his “grandson” who said he’d been arrested and jailed in Peru. So, as a loving grandparent, the man wired more than $13,000 in an attempt to help him.

An 86-year-old Springfield woman was told last week she’d won the lottery. But there was a catch; she needed to wire money to the “caller” in order to collect her winnings. She did as she was asked.

Similarly, an 80-year-old woman wired $4,800 to Bolivia to her “granddaughter” who was there for a wedding. The woman was then told her granddaughter had gotten into a serious accident, so she sent $5,000 more for medical expenses.

But, say Fairfax County police, all three of these victims were duped by scammers who are aggressively preying on senior citizens. These are just a few of the hundreds of cases detectives in the Financial Crimes Unit see each year. And once money has been wired, victims have little recourse and these cases are rarely able to be prosecuted.

“Education is key,” said Financial Crimes Det. Tom Polhemus. “We need to get the word out that people should not wire money to people they speak with on the phone. The amount of fraud in this area is of great concern to us.”

In an effort to help educate senior citizens, their children and the community at large, detectives from the FCPD Financial Crimes Unit are available for group presentations. As the scams change from year to year, police are aware of particular details and want to help raise public awareness, as well.

To learn more about financial crimes and scams or to report a crime, visit the Financial Crime Online Reporting site of the FCPD website at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police/financialcrimes/. To request a group presentation, contact Lucy Caldwell with the Public Information Office at 703-246-3271.