Beware of telephone and email scams

Keep your personal information in your wallet, not someone else's

By far, the most common way of separating seniors from their money is through the telephone, in cons ranging from the grandparent scam to the Jamaican Lottery scheme.

The grandparent scam started showing up in the area a few years ago, and a number of local residents have fallen victim. It targets older people, making them think a grandchild has gotten in trouble, often in another country. The con artist asks for money and tells the victim, "Please don't tell mom or dad; they'll kill me if they find out."

Scammers have been known to call a potential victim asking, "Can you guess who this is?" and when given a name, they'll run with it to try to coax money out of their target. Victims are told to wire transfer cash to help out.

The Jamaican Lottery scam starts with a call from someone claiming that the victim has won a prize, but needs to pony up some money to claim it.

"It happens around here. The Jamaican lottery scam – we got really lucky and arrested guy in L.A. but that's one in a zillion," Danville police chief Steve Simpkins said. "We got lucky being able to make an arrest. The money trail stopped in Los Angeles before it went somewhere else."

Simpkins said the best approach to stopping con artists is prevention through education.

"I think if our residents are very educated ... and we talk about it on a regular basis, people can be aware of types of scams," he said.

A local woman recently fell victim to a variation on the scam. The 77-year-old was told she'd won $100,000, but the money was sent to Mexico because it was assumed she was dead. She wired $1,500 in an attempt to get the cash.

Wire transfers are like cash – once the money is wired, there's no way to get it back.

Certified fraud specialist Nick Henley said to watch out for telemarketers and emails that can dupe someone into giving out credit card information.

"There's a lot of ways to do it," he said. "There's a lot of telephone and there's a lot of email scams."

Henley added that when it comes to scams, they often cross jurisdictions and can be time-consuming and difficult, if not impossible for police to solve.

State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-Oakland) is the author of two bills to protect people online that were recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. One requires consumers to be notified immediately if someone's email has been hacked.

"One of the most important things you need to do is change your password and change your security questions," Corbett said. "In the wrong hands, a person has the ability to access your financial data, your bank account, possibly, anything that password is connected to."

She said anyone whose email has been hacked has had their security breached.

Another new law authored by Corbett protects senior veterans. She said the new law prohibits unauthorized use of military symbols, often used on advertising materials to legitimize everything from products for sale to workshops.

The bottom line from professionals across the board: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you feel pressured, walk away, and remember, your bank will never call you to authenticate anything. If in doubt, call the bank yourself.


Like this comment
Posted by John Davidson
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 4, 2014 at 8:51 am

Do not answer any calls from a (925) 201- anything else number. This is a phony solar company they say is from Van Nuys. It is actually some belligerent harassing black thugs.

Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Jan 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm


Amen brother. Those idiots keep calling our land line too. One that keeps popping up is 925-201-6153 .
The following is a copy & paste someone posted from a site called whocalledme dot com :

"Long pause after you pick up usually means it's a telemarketer. On occasion, it's a legit call, so you have to wait it out.
In this case, some woman started demanding that I save money on my PG&E bill. She didn't like the way I declined her services so she actually called me back! The second conversation wasn't much better. Felt like she was threatening me because she said she knows where I live."

It must be noted that this isn't even a real telephone number. They are spoofing it somehow. What do these fools think you are going to do - give them your credit card on the phone?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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