There are several universal truths that exist in human nature, which are very familiar to most of us. To name a few, it is commonly true that people worldwide want to be loved and accepted, realize contentment and gain a reasonable level of financial security. Along with the other aforementioned truths, realization of financial security is particularly imperative as aging is inevitable; and as we age, our financial security becomes more critical not only for ourselves but also for the future of our loved ones. I want to expose some of the unfortunate incidents that have occurred in recent years pertaining to the theft of funds from individuals and the tactics being used that are not obvious to everyone.
When I mention the idea of personal funds being stolen, I am sure it is easy to conjure up images of people being held up on the street, a home invasion or even a bank robbery. However, these thieves are lurking in the most innocuous places and frighteningly have direct access to us on a daily basis. These scams and fraud are nothing new; and unfortunately, a vast majority of these scams are being targeted toward the 50+ and their parents. However, the way they are being conducted has changed drastically with the use of technology and intelligence to manipulate and circumvent the authorities. According to https://stacker.com, more than 60% of internet users in the U.S. have experienced a cybercrime; and in 2020 alone, this percent of the population lost more than $966 million to online fraud. I feel it is crucial that you, the hard-working citizens of this great country, as well as those who have worked a lifetime for their financial security, learn how to be a part of the solution to shutting down these operations.
Candler Eve, the vice president, director of Enterprise Fraud at MidFirst Bank in Oklahoma City, spoke with me about how they, along with other banks, are actively networking to thwart these scammers. As an expert on the topic of scam and fraud prevention, he explained that these fraudsters will target anyone to scam; however, there are specific scams they use depending on the person’s age or demographic. Seniors are often targeted because the scammer connects with something they value such as generating problems with a family member, creating an issue with the IRS, and initiating phantom complications with their computers or banking accounts. As I talked about last month, they are also using Medicare fraud. The scammers instill a certain level of fear and urgency that takes advantage of the victim.
Eve explained that these scams often involve calling seniors at home to tell them a family member has been arrested and is in jail or in major trouble, along with the above-mentioned created scams. They instruct the victim not to tell anyone or ask questions because there is a current “gag order” about the situation. The victim who is then fearful to question anything is directed to go to his/her bank to withdraw money. These scammers instruct them not to share any information with the bank tellers because this will cause even further problems. Often using rental vehicles or curriers, the scammers will have the victim withdraw thousands of dollars to be put into boxes or containers and dropped off for pick up. Regrettably, by the time the victim realizes they have been scammed and reports it to the authorities, it is rare for the money to be successfully traced, found and returned. This is why it is so important to stay informed and educated on this subject.
This scenario may sound familiar from personal experience or hearsay, but sadly these situations are happening on a daily basis. Eve explained that these scams have become so frequent that banks are creating specific divisions focused primarily on scam and fraud prevention, detection and investigation. Banks often work together to discuss the generalities of scams and frauds. This It is quickly becoming a community effort to stop the scammers. Additionally, bank employees are receiving training specific to fraud detection to identify the signs of a potential victim withdrawing funds. Each expert I spoke to regarding this subject mentioned that the Oklahoma Bankers Association elected Elaine Dodd in 2003 to be the executive vice president of the Fraud Division. According to www.oba.com, Dodd is a retired Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent who spent 22 years investigating white-collar crimes as a diversion investigator. Since joining the association, she has provided fraud training to thousands of bankers and customers across the state. Scam and fraud prevention education empowers people to avoid these fraudsters, which is a vital component to interrupting their operations.
Experts emphasized that if you or someone you know is ever contacted about a suspicious or unusual situation, be sure to call and confirm the information with a trusted family member, friend or local bank representative to be certain of its validity. Avoiding and not answering unknown calls is best, but it is a good idea for all families to have a “family code word” that is specific to only them that can be used for verification if needed. These actions are key to helping shut down these heartless scammers and fraudsters.
This article will be a two-part series and will be continued in the next month’s issue. I have had the privilege to speak with two other experts in this field, Erin Batey who is the chief communications and innovations officer at Quail Creek Bank in Oklahoma City, and also Alicia Wade, the president and chief operating officer at Valliance Bank in Oklahoma City. Both are decidedly included in this endeavor to stop scams and fraud in Oklahoma. They will shed light on these disturbing crimes that are plaguing our fellow senior citizens and potentially our friends and family members.
Robin Gunn is the owner of The Oklahoma Senior Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read the original article here.