Scam artists are nothing new. Man has developed different ways to swindle money and belongings from others for as long as he’s walked the earth. In our fast paced, ever-changing world of new and improved electronics, scammers are popping up all over the internet, often without a person’s knowledge.
“In Collier County, there are seven categories of crime: homicide, robbery, assault, theft, rape, forgery and auto theft. Nothing about scams,” explained Keith Dameron, Branch Manager of two IBERIA Banks – including that of Marco Island – at the most recent Noontime Rotary meeting.
As guest Speaker, Dameron went on to explain in detail the different types of scams that are out there, targeting Floridians. “Florida is the number one state for both fraud and identity theft,” stated Dameron. One of Dameron’s theories is that the recent financial crisis caused many to lose quite a bit of money – including himself. When a scam comes along that sounds like a really good deal, people are more susceptible because they are trying to make up for their loss.
“Older Americans are more vulnerable to scams. Youhave an older American right here,” stated Dameron while raising his hand. All jokes aside, scammers steal over $3 billion annually, much of it from the retired community, and only four percent of these victims ever report the scam.
Dameron went over a number of the most popular scams and how to avoid them as Rotarians enjoyed a buffet lunch provided by the Island Country Club.
First scam on the list: The Grandparent Scam. This is a common scam to see in the summer months, according to Dameron, because many people travel, giving the scam more validity. Receivers of this scam will generally get an email with a “Dear Grandma and Grandpa” beginning. The email will go on to say they are stuck in a foreign country and need money. The email asks to have money wire transferred to a certain place. “Once money is wire transferred, it’s gone,” added Dameron.
Another popular email scam to steal personal information is through sending emails from your address book of friends, family and co-workers whose account has unknowingly been hacked.. You open the email and there’s a genericshort paragraph urging you to click on the link below. Sometimes there is nothing in the email but a link. “Once you click on that link, they have your information,” stated Dameron.
Mystery shopper scams, overpayment scams and prescription drug scams are all running rampant through Florida. The Sunshine State is also ranked number one in medical identity theft.
Dameron urged Rotarians to get to know their ATM machines. Scammers are using a fake debit card swipe cover which immediately copies and obtains all your information while you take your cash and are clueless to the scam. Smart phone security, Dameron warned, is not very good and so one should be careful opening emails and other things that may be suspect.
The best defense against all of this? “Knowledge,” said Dameron, who has lectured to many groups about the topic. “We move to paradise and we think we have left all that stuff behind. It’s like asking a bank robber why they rob banks – because that’s where the money is. The wealthy are targeted and we live in Collier County, the number one wealthiest county in the state.”