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Guests at Oasis learn about scams
Part one: Common and costly telephone scams

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[December 07, 2015]  LINCOLN - Detective Mark Landers on Friday morning was the primary speaker at a meeting held at the Oasis Senior Center addressing how to avoid being the victim of scammers. Landers spoke along with Nancy Kauggold of Senior Services of Central Illinois and Logan County State’s Attorney Jonathan Wright.

Landers offered up information about scams that are going on in the community either by telephone, internet, mail or in person such as the home repair frauds.

He began by explaining that he was a Logan County native, a member of the Landers Trash Service family. He got involved with criminal investigation in the military, and in the 90’s began his career with local law enforcement. He has spent the last 15 years as a criminal investigator dealing primarily with felony cases in Logan County.

He began by talking about telemarketers and advised guests to look at the caller id before taking a call. He said numbers listed as “unknown” or from another state were more often than not telemarketers who will try to get your money in some way. He mentioned the National Do Not Call program and suggested that guests call the number; 888-382-1222 and register for the Do Not Call list. Registration can also be accomplished by going online to  (be sure to note this web address ends as .gov and not .com)


Throughout the meeting, guests were interactive with Landers, asking questions and making comments about their personal experiences. The first such comment was does the do not call list really work. Landers said he believed it was somewhat effective. He said he had registered as an experiment, and asked another person to register as well. He said the result was he has not received any calls since, but the person he asked to register is still getting calls. He concluded that he can’t say it is one-hundred percent effective, but it could be helpful.

Landers said one of the biggest scams going on now is the IRS scam. Someone will call and say that the person receiving the call owes the IRS money and is about to be arrested or prosecuted. The quick relief is to purchase money on a Green Dot card and pay the “IRS.” Landers stressed this is not the IRS. He said the IRS will never call someone and seek payment over the phone and will not tell you to wire money to them. Landers said that there had been two reports to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office regarding the IRS scam.

Landers also explained phone number spoofing. On caller ID’s the number will show up as being someone known to the recipient or some local business or government office. Landers said the caller will seek out personal information such as social security numbers or credit card information. He said that local government offices are not going to ask for that kind of information over the phone. He also advised guests that the best solution is to end the call, and then call the local person or entity to verify that they are seeking information from you.

Landers moved on to the most common scam, the Grandparent Scam.

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He said it happens all the time. Someone will call, and when the phone is answered they will say something to the effect of “Grandma, do you know who this is?” Landers said this person has just called you grandma. You don’t want to admit that you don’t recognize the voice, so you say, “yes.”

"Hey Grandma, do you know who this is? Nine times out of ten you don’t want to feel like you don’t know the sound of your own grandchild’s voice, so you’re going to (think) that sounds like Mark, ‘Well yes Mark, how are you’? They now have all they need to play on your heart strings.”

From this point it will be “Grandma, I got in trouble, I need money.” The caller will ask that grandma go get a Green Dot card and will give them the card number over the phone. Landers said the Green Dot can be cashed anywhere in the country with only the numbers on the card. Those cashing the card do not have to have physical possession of the card to use it.

Landers said the best defense is to call another family member and find out if grandson Mark is in trouble. Many times, the caller will say they are traveling out of state, and in some cases that part of the story will be correct. But if the grandson is in trouble, other family members should know that, or at least be able to contact the grandson and make sure he is alright.

A variation of this scam is that the call comes from someone claiming to be from a sheriff’s office or other law enforcement seeking money on behalf of the kid.

Landers said this had happened locally; the grandparent wired the first cash request, but when the official person called again seeking more money, they began to question it. It turned out that the grandson was in the state that was claimed on the phone, but he was in no trouble.

A member of the audience asked if the grandparent got their money back. Landers said they did not. The money goes to a wide variety of locations and more than likely not even to the same state where the call originated. In addition, the locations of where that money goes are constantly changing.

A member of the audience asked how the caller knows the grandson is out of state. Landers said that the criminals who do this are very intelligent, well connected through the internet and know how to search things out. The scammers have access to all types of information. Something as innocent as the grandson posting a picture of himself on social media while on a trip can get the ball rolling for a scam artist.

Another scam that affects senior citizens is the Medicare adjuster calling and saying the information on file is incomplete, they need a social security number. Landers stressed to just not do this. Part of the problem for all victims is that these people are professional talkers. They know how to persuade the victim to comply, so everyone needs to be alert and be firm that they are not going to give out personal information on the phone.

An audience member shared another scam going around is someone will call from your telephone service provider and say there is an issue with the phone. They ask the victim to punch in their own phone number to help solve the problem. The caller then has control over the phone account and uses it to make calls themselves. Landers said that is a prime example of how spoofing works. Now that the caller has that number, he or she will use the number to deceive other call recipients, and make it all the more difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

After this discussion had concluded, Landers moved on to discuss internet dangers, mail fraud, and home repair fraud. Kauggold and Wright also contributed to the meeting. Those discussions will be covered in Lincoln Daily News starting on Tuesday.

[Nila Smith]


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