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Telephone Scam Targets Grosse Pointe Woods Man, 86

Telephone scams are going around again. Grosse Pointe Woods police recommend using caution any time a caller is asking for personal information or money.

An 86-year-old man is the most recent victim of a recent spate of telephone scams. 

The man reported the scam to Woods police this week. He was tricked out of $663 in what he believed to be a real estate transaction on property he owns in New Mexico.

Det. Sgt. Raymond Yonkowski said residents should use caution any time they are contacted by telephone regarding personal, financial or other information. 

Typically the police recommended asking for contact information, such as a phone number and address as well as a company name. They also urge residents to ask for any information they feel is pertinent. 

Gathering such information, however, is not a total safeguard from becoming a victim. The 86-year-old Woods residents swindled out of money this week is an example. 

The man was careful to ask the callers for information about themselves, including a real estate license number, according to a report. The rest of the details outlined in the report are as follows:

He was called by a woman who identified herself as being from an out-of-state real estate company. She had an interested buyer in his New Mexico property.

She explained to him what the buyer was planning to use the lot for and said the buyer would pay $36,000 for it. She said he could expect to hear from her boss, whom she identified by name.

The resident thought this amount was high but when the boss called, the resident inquired about his licensure and contact information—all of which he provided. The boss told the resident he needed to send $663 for the title company to begin work.

The boss told the resident he could pay the amount through the purchase of GreenDot MoneyPak cards that could be purchased at any grocery store. The boss told the resident to go purchase the cards and that he would call back in a few hours to get the numbers from the cards.

The resident followed through with the purchase and provided the boss with the card numbers, at which time he was told to expect paperwork to arrive at his home the next day.

The paperwork never arrived and the resident was never able to get in touch with the boss again.

Since the scam orginated out of state, Woods detectives are unable to investigate the scam but took the report as a measure of documentation for the resident, who planned to submit it to the gift card company's fraud department.

Yonkowski said in addition to gathering information from callers, another red flag is the need for money up front. Typically money up front is not necessary and even when performing cross-country real estate transactions, the paperwork would be signed locally with an attorney. 

This man's story is similar to others throughout the Grosse Pointes and beyond. Earlier this year, . 

Another recent example, also in Grosse Pointe Woods is . In Grosse Pointe Shores, a resident called police after realizing she should not have shared her social security and banking information with a suspicious caller. 

In the City of Grosse Pointe, a resident was scammed via email. The resident received . 

In some cases, the residents have refused to give their information but have been advised to keep a close eye on their accounts to ensure no fraudulent activity arises. In other cases, the victims are likely out the money permanently. 

Such scams are often difficult to investigate or ever track down the origin, Yonkowski said. Many come from overseas, use pre-paid cell phones or blocked numbers, he said.

The circumstances of this most recent report suggest the callers had some previous knowledge about the victim, Yonkowski said, noting how this particular case is slightly different from the others.

"They did their homework," he said. 

Marcia Proven November 23, 2011 at 11:22 AM
This past week-end my 88 yr old mother (Woods resident) received a call from a quick talking unidentified caller (male) who said he was ready to come over and do the repair work she requested and tried to get information from her. Quick thinking Mom said she didn't call for any repair work and promptly hung up.
LMJ November 23, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Marcia, thank goodness. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of these people have access to who our elderly are and target them.. I wonder if we can ask the city of GPW to sponsor and hold a series of informational forums on what kid of scams are out there, and how to protect yourself? This is something to bring up at a Council meeting.. it's imperative we stay proactive and do what we can to make sure our older neighbors are aware and as impervious as they can be against predators.
Kathy R November 23, 2011 at 01:38 PM
First thing to do: make sure they have caller ID and stress not to answer the phone unless they recognize the name and/or number. Even better is talking caller ID, which is available on a lot of phones. The elderly end up being victims because they usually answer the phone, regardless of who's calling. Stress that, if it's important, the caller will leave a message. And make sure they know how to access their voice mail.
LMJ November 23, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Good points.. I want to say I've seen some of these ( and other) suggestions in the city newsletter, but if not, it could be a good idea to include a section on this in every letter, on the page where events and activities for seniors is placed.
Marcia Proven November 24, 2011 at 11:48 AM
All good points however I think education is primary. My mother doesn't have caller ID and if she did, I don't know if she would be able to discern the "good" from the "bad" at her age within 4 rings.
Evelyn Inempolidis November 24, 2011 at 12:46 PM
I have received 3 letters telling me to submit the bank account numbers of 20 of my friends to receive $100,000. They are very persuasive in the letter. I can see how an elderly person could get swayed.

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