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Guests at Oasis learn about scams
Part two: Internet viruses and hackers, mail fraud, and home repair scams

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[December 07, 2015]  LINCOLN - Friday morning, Detective Mark Landers of the Logan County Sherriff’s Office led a meeting at the Oasis Senior Center on how to avoid being scammed. The meeting covered several topics and included not only information shared by Landers, but also from Senior Services of Central Illinois and Logan County State’s Attorney Jonathan Wright.

After discussing scams involving telemarketers, and con artists who will impersonate government officials and even family members in order to get money, Landers moved on to internet scams. Sixty percent of the population over the age of 60 uses the internet and of those 70-plus percent are on the internet daily.

Landers said that posting on social media has created a “firestorm of crimes,” and he cautioned the audience to be cautious of what they do post. He also noted that these are great ways to stay connected with family and friends, but everyone should be aware there are criminals looking for information via social media.

He spoke about viruses, Trojan Horses and malware that come to victims via emails. Again, the emails could be from familiar people, and the receiver may trust the sender and click on links in the email. Then later they will find out the real sender was a scammer who had hacked the friend or family member's account, and now have hacked the receivers account as well.

State’s Attorney Wright added to this discussion telling guests to examine the subject lines, and if it doesn’t seem like something a friend or family member would typically send, then delete it.

An audience member shared, and Landers confirmed it that when hackers have control of the computer, they not only have vital information about the owner, but they also have control over the computer. This was mentioned specifically in regard to webcams. When a computer is turned on, even if the camera is off, a hacker can turn that camera on and view whatever the camera is seeing at the time. Landers said to be truly secure, one should cover the camera lens when it is not in use.

Another topic was the quality of prescription drugs found on the internet. Landers warned that not every site that sells prescriptions is above board. He said there are sites where that when you order your medication, what you receive will not be the actual drug ordered. This is obviously dangerous to the health of the buyer, plus it is taking money out of the buyer’s pocket.

In another scam, a telephone caller will say there is a problem with your Microsoft Windows program. If you allow them remote access to your computer, they will fix the problem. This will never happen. Microsoft is a mega-giant company, and they will not use personal phone calls to address problems with their software. Landers told the audience that this was one way thieves can gain control of their computers and in a moment collect from it all the personal information you may have stored there.

Landers next approached the subject of mail fraud. He began with the typical sweepstakes scam.
A letter arrives in the mail, you’ve won a significant amount of money, but in order to collect the money, you need to pay a fee back to the sender. He told the audience, “No lottery in the world will ever ask you to send money.”

A variation of this scam is that the envelope will contain a money order already made out to you, but you need to return a percentage of it as a fee. The letter will instruct the receiver to take the money order to the bank, but to get a certain amount of cash and send it back via Western Union. Landers said the scam works. The bank will take the money order and give you the cash to return to the sender. But, a few days later, you’ll be contacted from the bank that the money order was bogus, and you have to return the money.

A member of the audience asked if the bank can be held responsible because they accepted the money order. Landers said they cannot.

At this time of year, home repair scams are a popular means for criminals to take advantage of homeowners. In most cases, Landers said, these will be door-to-door salesmen. A prime example, the criminal will knock on the door and say he is resurfacing a driveway down the street and has some left over asphalt. He will do your driveway with the left over if you wish.

Landers said there are a few approaches to this scam. First, they may do the work you ask them to do, but then they will start “seeing” other things around your property that needs to be done. They will continue to seek out work and money, but they are not performing the work as promised.

He said it was not unusual for these scammers to paint a driveway with black paint and call it asphalt. The result is not only did you not get what you paid for, but the paint has an adverse affect on your driveway. Another home repair switch is the scammer will offer to seal up some loose shingles on the roof with roof sealant. Then, they go on the roof and paint the shingles with metallic silver paint that has no sealant properties. Again, the criminal not only has your money, but he has ruined your roof shingles.

Landers also warned of the distracting salesman scam. He said it happens with two people who make their way into the home. While one person is distracting the homeowner with conversation and a sales pitch of some sort, the other is casing the house, looking for valuables, maybe stealing small items such as jewelry along the way. Landers said the best defense here, is to not allow anyone inside your home that you do not know and trust.

Landers said if you need work done around the house and don’t know who to call, the best idea is to ask friends and relatives for suggestions or recommendations.

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The next person to address the audience at the Oasis was Nancy Kauffold of Senior Services of Central Illinois. Kauffold works with the Criminal Victim and Witness Assistance Program inside Senior Services. She said that one of her principal duties was to assist victims in filing victim claim forms with the authorities.

She spoke ambiguously about cases she has been involved with where elderly women were threatened with bodily injury or rape, and even cases where women were physically assaulted.

A question came from the audience, is there anyone who can help a homeowner find out if a repair person is legitimate or a business properly licensed? Kauffold said that she could help with that as well. Anyone who wants to check out a business or handyman service can call her office, and she will be able to assist in checking someone out.

During the course of the meeting, there was a great deal of audience participation. As the meeting went beyond the allotted amount of time, Logan County States Attorney Jonathan Wright was the final speaker.

He kept his comments brief and focused on one topic, the need to report all fraud to the appropriate law enforcement. He said that for seniors especially, it can be a difficult task. It is embarrassing to admit that you were taken advantage of, but doing so is very important.

The Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan plays hard-ball with all types of scammers. She aggressively prosecutes those who are caught through the work of her office and the state.

Madigan’s official website also contains numerous links to information to help avoid being scammed. The Attorney General submits press releases on a regular basis to Lincoln Daily News regarding many issues that can have an affect on Logan County residents.

As the meeting drew to a close, Kauffold, who was accompanied by Amanda Briick, offered the group several handouts including a tip sheet on how to avoid being scammed, as well as business cards with contact information for her office. Landers handed out fact sheets on known criminals James Costello, and Lynette and Billy Collins.

Kauffold’s office is located at 701 West Mason in Springfield. The phone number is 217-528-4035, ext. 141. The Senior Services website is

Landers is available at the Logan County Sherriff’s Office. That phone number is 217-732-4159

State’s Attorney Wright has offices in the Logan County Courthouse. The phone number for that office 217-732-2184.

[Nila Smith]

Past related article

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

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