If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
And lately, Kentuckians have been receiving a lot of too-goodto be-true offers on the telephone, through the mail, and through email and text messaging.
Attorney General Andy Beshear has opened a scam alert system for people to help stop scammers that he said are preying not just on the elderly, but on everyone who owns a telephone, computer or mailbox.
“A friend of mine called and said, ‘Andy, it’s probably nothing, but I wanted to run it past you. I have won the Nigerian lottery,’” Beshear said last week during a speech at the Letcher County Extension Office. “I said, ‘Have you ever entered the Nigerian Lottery?’ He said, ‘No.’”
The crowd in the meeting hall laughed.
“If you’ve never entered it, then you probably didn’t win it,” Beshear said.
But while the people gathered for the speech laughed, some admitted that they have been taken in by telephone scams, too. One woman told the room that she got a call from someone telling her that her computer had a virus, and if she would turn it on, they would tell her how to remove it for a fee. She paid $250 over the phone. Another said she received a call from a local number telling her there was nothing wrong with her credit card, but they would give her a better rate if she would just give them the number. When she questioned the caller, he began cursing her and hung up.
“You wouldn’t believe the profanity, the nasty, vulgar things that man said to me,” she said.
Another said she received a card in the mail from a company offering her a free back brace or knee brace when she had never had a problem with either, and another woman said she got a copy of a credit report showing her husband was dead when he was actually outside mowing the grass.
Beshear said scams are plentiful, and some of the most common are various sweepstakes scams that say you’ve won something when you’ve never entered, and a scam that tells you that you have a computer virus, and then takes control of your computer and charges a ransom to fix it. A similar scam is a real virus that is sent as an innocent-looking email attachment, but then disables the networks of large companies and demands a ransom to allow them access again.
Because of the season, another popular scam is an IRS scam in which someone calls and says you haven’t paid your taxes and are going to go to jail.
“The IRS will never call you on the phone,” Beshear said. “If somebody calls claiming they’re the IRS, hang up.”
The law-enforcement scams are also common, with conmen claiming to represent a foundation helping a police department, or claiming to be a deputy sheriff coming to arrest the mark because they have missed jury duty. The “deputy” then solicits a “fine” to be paid over the phone by credit card, or suggests going to a drug store to pick up a gift card and load the money required for the fine onto that.
He said that perhaps the worst scam is the so-called grandchild scam, in which a con artist calls an elderly person and identifies himself or herself as their grandchild. The person then claims to be in a remote area in jail or in some other trouble and convinces the mark to wire them money, or put money on a shopping card.
Beshear said callers don’t always try to get money. Sometimes they are trying to get personal information for identity theft purposes. No personal information should ever be given over the phone.
Beshear said residents can get alerts from his office about what scams are being perpetrated at any given moment. In order to sign up, text KYOAG Scam to GO311 (468311).
Beshear’s office also has an elder abuse hotline for residents to call if they suspect an adult has suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation.
That number is 877-ABUSE TIP (877-228-7384.