Don’t be a victim: Officials hold event to remind seniors of holiday scams

December 11, 2017 GMT

The season of giving is also the season of taking. Reports of scams increase during the holiday season, which prompted the AARP and officials from organizations across North Carolina to get together Monday for a special event.

Elaine Marshall, the secretary of state, calls them grinches – scam artists who prey on people who are feeling generous around the holidays.

Vivien Serff says she was nearly in tears when she got a call saying her grandson had been in an accident. The caller said he was charged with DWI and that she needed to send bail money. It was all a lie.

“They play on your emotions and make it sound as bad as it can,” she said. “So you don’t stop to think about what is going on.”

According to officials, the most common scam is known as the “Sweetheart Scam.”

“It’s the one costing the most dollars,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “It’s where people get duped into developing online relationships with people abroad who try to steal all of their money.”

Another popular one is the “Lottery Scam.”

“That’s where people are told they won the lottery that they may have not even entered,” Stein said. “And to get the earnings they have to spend a couple thousand dollars in taxes.”

The “Stealing Dreams Scheme” cheated hundreds of people, many of them older, out of money they thought was being used to save their homes, according to federal prosecutors. The scam targeted people across the country when they needed help paying their mortgages during the housing crisis.

“Don’t be pressured into giving something very quickly. Check behind what is being said to you,” Marshall said. “At this time of year, they are acting like grinches when we are feeling really good.”

The attorney general says 35 people lost an average of $5,600 each when they electronically transferred money in scams. It’s often hard to get your money back in a scam like this because many of the con artists are operating overseas.