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Officials warn of scams in IC

BY ALISON KEIM | FEBRUARY 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Picking up a ringing phone could mean risking identity theft for senior citizens in Iowa City.

“When I received the call, I was not very skeptical,” said Lynn Waters, a resident of Iowa City who fell victim to a scam. “They told me that they needed to verify my information, and I fell right into the trap.”

Thieves impersonating Medicare, Social Security, or supplemental-insurance officials trick senior citizens into providing or confirming their private financial information. That information is then used to commit theft.

Iowa City police Sgt. Vicki Lalla said the calls have targeted senior citizens. The number of fraudulent calls has increased throughout this past decade, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Iowa Attorney General’s Office, said the Federal Trade Commissions’ complaint portal confirms that fraud is an increasing issue in the United States; in Iowa, the issue is not the most frequent complaint filed, but the number is growing.

“It is not the highest complaint on our list, but it is progressing, and most people who call would file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission,” he said. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft — a type of fraud — has increased 32 percent in a decade. Since 2011, 25.6 million adults, nearly 11 percent of the adult population, were victims of fraud. 

Lalla said the callers who are involved in this crime have been reported as extremely aggressive, calling over and over, in an attempt to wear down potential victims. There have been cases of threats involved as well.

“A reason the calls may be directed toward senior citizens is because they are a little less technologically aware, so that may make them more trusting,” Lalla said.

The criminals are attempting to gain the victims’ trust, and according to the Iowa City police, in a number of cases reported, the criminals have already obtained limited personal information about the people, such as a names, addresses, or a parts of their Social Security numbers.

The police urge residents to hang up if they receive a call asking them to disclose their bank account or other financial information. By speaking with the callers, the impersonators may be encouraged to continue calling the particular number.

“It was not long after the call I realized I had a charge on my account that I had not made,” Waters said. “It was not a slow process by any means.”

Criminals act fast after achieving other’s information, as they may assume it is going to be reported quickly once the charges are made.

“We advise anyone who has received these calls to seek action immediately,” said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the University of Iowa police. “It does not take long for criminals to use the information once they access it.”


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