Lori Fullbright, News on 6 crime reporter, was in Okmulgee again this week to give a presentation on cons, frauds and scams and what citizens need to do to protect themselves.
The Oct. 9 event was hosted by St. Matthew Baptist Church.
“People in their late 20s, their 30s and early 40s, are being scammed more than senior citizens,” Fullbright said to those in attendance.
In an era where technological advancements have revolutionized the way we live, work, and connect with the world, a startling trend has emerged: millennials, the digitally savvy and tech-native generation, have unwittingly become the largest demographic falling victim to scams in America.
With the promise of convenience and opportunities, they have embraced the digital landscape with open arms, but in doing so, they have also inadvertently opened the door to a surge in fraudulent schemes. It’s not just our senior citizens falling prey and the implications of this unexpected vulnerability among millennials raise important questions about online safety, financial literacy, and the evolving tactics of scammers in this new generation of con artists. Fulbright shared the following scams to watch out for: — The Grandparent Scam
“The number one scam in Oklahoma, easily the last 10 or 15 years, has been the grandparent scam,” Fulbright said in warning. “I’ll tell you about my lady in Owasso. So she answers the phone and he goes, ‘Grandma, Grandma Grandma,’ she goes, ‘Michael? Oh yes. My name is Michael.’ Right now he (the scammer) has the name. And he goes, ‘My friends and I went on a trip, we got to partying and I got arrested. Please don’t tell mom and dad.’ And she says later, ‘Lori. I don’t want to tell his parents because he’s a good kid’. So she’s like ‘Michael, what do I need to do?’ And he goes, ‘Grandma, you just got to talk to this’ and he gives the phone off to a defense attorney, the jailer, whoever he claims it is and they tell her, ‘run to Walmart and put $3,500 on a gift card.’ Okay, this is the most important thing I’m going to tell you today that you need to tell every- body in your life – Nobody legitimate ever takes money payment from a gift card.”
Here’s how it works. The Initial Contact: The scam typically begins with a phone call. The scammer, often pretending to be a grandchild or someone close to the grandchild, reaches out to the grandparent. They may claim to be in a dire situation, such as being arrested, involved in a car accident, or facing a medical emergency. The scammer then makes urgent pleas for financial assistance, emphasizing that they need money immediately to resolve their supposed crisis. They might request that the grandparent not tell anyone else in the family to avoid embarrassment or legal trouble. Once the grandparent complies with the request and sends money or information, the scammer disappears, and the grandparent realizes they have been scammed. Unfortunately, in many cases, the money is virtually impossible to recover.
To protect themselves from falling victim to the Grandparent Scam, individuals should exercise caution when receiving unexpected calls requesting money. It’s crucial to:
• Verify the caller’s identity by asking specific questions that only the real grandchild would know.
• Confirm the situation by contacting the grandchild’s parents or other family members to check if the story is legitimate.
• Never share personal or financial information over the phone without proper verification.
• Be skeptical of unsolicited phone calls and avoid making hasty financial decisions in response to emotional appeals.
In this case with the grandmother from Owasso, “30 minutes later they called her back”, Fullbright said, adding, “and what do you think they need? More money. They will always hit you for more every time.”
— The IRS Scam
“The number two most common scam in Oklahoma right now is the IRS scam,” Fullbright said. “So the IRS calls and says you owe money. You haven’t paid all your taxes and you got to pay right now, you’re going to jail. And if not, we’re taking you to court and guess how the IRS wants you to pay? Gift card…”
The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) scam is a fraudulent scheme in which scammers impersonate IRS officials or agents to deceive individuals into believing they owe back taxes or are facing legal action for tax-related issues. The primary goal of this scam is to extort money from victims or obtain personal and financial information for fraudulent purposes.
“No government agency, IRS, Homeland Security, FBI, sheriff ’s office, they don’t call you,” Fullbright said. “They don’t email you, they don’t text message you. So if it’s any of those don’t even talk to those people. Hang up on those people.”
— The Jury Duty Scam
“The number three most common scam and I see this one a lot, is the jury duty scam,” Fulbright said. “So they call and say ‘oh, you missed jury duty. You were supposed to show up for jury duty, you didn’t show up.’ But guess what, there’s a warrant out for your arrest. And if you don’t pay for that warrant, we’re taking you to jail. And how do you think they want you to pay for your warrant? Gift card.
The jury duty scam is a fraudulent scheme in which scammers impersonate law enforcement officials or court representatives to manipulate individuals into believing they have failed to fulfill their civic duty by not appearing for jury duty. The scam is designed to intimidate and deceive victims into providing personal information, such as Social Security numbers and financial details, or to make immediate payments to avoid supposed legal consequences.
“In Oklahoma,” Fulbright said, “the only thing that happens if you really do miss jury duty, which you didn’t but if you do, you know what they do? They reschedule you. That’s it. There’s no warrant. There is no fine. Don’t let them say this is the sheriff ’s office you miss jury duty. You got to pay you right now with $300 on the Google Play card. That is a lie.”
To protect yourself, verify the claim: If you receive a call or email about missed jury duty, verify the authenticity of the message by independently contacting the local courthouse for jury commission using the official contact information provided on their website.
• Do Not Share Personal Information: Be cautious about sharing personal and financial information with unsolicited callers or email senders. Legitimate courts do not ask for sensitive information over the phone or email.
• No Immediate Payments: Courts do not demand immediate payments over the phone, especially using methods like wire transfers, prepaid cards, or gift cards. If you’re pressured to make such payments, it’s a strong sign of a scam.
• Stay Calm and Informed: Scammers thrive on inducing panic. Stay calm, gather information, and consult with a trusted source (such as the courthouse or legal counsel) to confirm the legitimacy of any legal claims made against you.
— A Word of Caution
Caller ID Spoofing: To appear more convincing, scammers might manipulate caller ID information to make it seem as if the call is originating from an actual business office, adding a layer of authenticity to their claims. Lori explains how this can look.
“Let’s talk about caller ID … you cannot trust your caller ID. These scammers can put any number they want in your caller ID. They can put the Police Department of Okmulgee, they can put the Okmulgee County Sheriff ’s Office, U.S. Marshals office, they can put your bank, Social Security, Medicare, your doctor’s office, do not believe your caller ID. So I did a story on that. How are they doing this? So I went online and I bought a little calling card for $10. On that calling card, it gave me instructions on how to put whatever number I want in someone’s caller ID. That card also taught me how to change my voice from a woman to a man or man to a woman.”
While the aforementioned scams represent the top three concerns in Oklahoma, it’s important to recognize that a multitude of fraudulent activities persist in the digital landscape. Online job scams, scam organizations posing for causes, social media scams, and online dating scams are widespread and vigilance remains your strongest defense against falling victim to these deceitful schemes.
Always question suspicious communications and safeguard yourself by verifying information directly from reliable sources. To protect yourself from caller ID spoofing, exercise caution when receiving calls from unfamiliar numbers, as the displayed caller ID can be deceptive.
Verify the caller’s identity independently, especially when they claim to represent reputable organizations or government agencies.
Avoid sharing personal information over the phone, utilize call-blocking features or screening apps, register on the National Do Not Call Registry, and promptly report suspicious calls to the FTC and local authorities. Educate yourself about common scams and stay vigilant, as scammers continually adapt their tactics, making awareness and skepticism vital defenses against fraudulent calls.
Lastly, just call Lori – she made her phone number available to all participants to use whenever needed.
“Here’s what I’m asking you to do,” she said, “If you get a phone call, you get an email, you get a text message. You get a Facebook message. I don’t care what it is, and you’re not 100% sure about it. I want you to call me. I want you to say ‘Lori, I want you to research this for me’ and I won’t think it’s dumb. I won’t think it’s a waste of my time. I will research it and tell you if it’s real or not real I will help you in any way I can. But here’s the deal. You have got to call me before you do something. Maybe I can help you after, but probably not. But if you call me before, I can help you.”