Petaluma police are warning the public about scams targeting senior citizens after learning of three such crimes in recent months, a police lieutenant said. In the latest incident, the family of a 95-year-old man told police on Jan. 17 that the man had sent about $124,000 to suspects who claimed he had won an out-of-state lottery, Lt. Tim Lyons said. People posing as lottery officials and attorneys told him that before he could claim his winnings, he needed to pay out-of-state taxes, he said. The man sent $9,000 in cash to an address in Michigan, and was also instructed to send money to a Florida address, Lyons said.
The money was withdrawn from the man’s local bank and sent through a national parcel delivery company, police said. He continued to send cash deliveries to those addresses on several other occasions. Investigators traced the phone numbers to Canada, according to Lyons. Police in Michigan and Florida aided Petaluma police by going to the addresses given to the man, which turned out to be the homes of other seniors who were victims of similar scams, he said. A separate case in December involved a 67-year-old man who was befriended by a woman online. She requested that he send her money to pay for a trip from Ghana to the U.S. so she could visit him, Lyons said.
The victim at first wired $4,000, then months later sent $5,000 to pay for immigration documentation, he said. The woman then told the victim that she was stuck in customs in London and needed another $10,000, according to Lyons. Police said the victim ended up wiring $75,000 to a fictitious person in Ghana. In a third scam, which police were notified about in November, a 69-year-old woman sent $15,000 to a person who claimed to be her grandson after the person called her and said he needed money to get out of jail in Mexico and pay for a flight home, Lyon said.
When the woman called her real grandson to check on him, she learned that the previous phone call was a scam, according to Lyons. Petaluma police are advising people to report any suspicious activity to the state Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, Adult Protective Services or a local police department. Police are advising family members of seniors to educate their relatives about how to protect their finances so they won’t fall victim to scams.
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