A new telephone scam has at least one Lodi resident warning senior citizens to be careful about the information they hand out over the phone.
Myrna Carter, a Realtor with Century 21 M&M and Associates, immediately knew she was the target of a scam when a man called last week and told her she was eligible for a $7,500 grant from the federal government.
The man claimed to be with the U.S. Department of Grants, and said he has been doing an analysis and there were 1,700 people eligible for the grants in the local area, including Carter.
"He said, 'The government is giving these grants out in different areas because they know people can use the money,'" Carter said.
The unidentified man started asking questions and gave her a confirmation number with two letters and three numbers, telling her to wait for a call the next day where they would discuss how she wanted to collect the grant.
The man offered three options. He could wire the money directly into Carter's bank account, he could add it on a credit card as a credit or Carter could wire $280 through Western Union. The man promised to immediately send back $7,780 once he received the wired money. He said the U.S. Department of Grants was a foundation.
Carter wanted to see how far the scam would go, so when the man didn't call back, she tried to contact him. He pretended to look up her profile and then ended up hanging up the phone, she said.
This past Wednesday, she got another call from a different number registered in Washington, D.C., but it was the same scam. She pretended that she would wire the money, and he asked if she could get to a Western Union right away.
When she said she would probably wait until the afternoon, the man said that was fine.
Both men called her cellphone, which she said is available on her website as a Realtor. She said they both sounded foreign and used odd phrasing.
Carter said she had read about this particular scam in the News-Sentinel years ago, and she worries senior citizens may fall for it because the callers identify themselves as someone from a federal foundation.
"I'm a senior citizen, and he did ask me my birthdate. I think senior citizens are more apt to fall for it," Carter said. "That's the bad thing."
Lodi Police Sgt. Mike Oden said the department frequently gets calls about scams, usually from foreign countries. Often they come through email, asking people to wire money, usually $1,000, to a foreign country to get $10,000 or $100,000 back.
"People continue to fall for it. The only way to combat it is to make people aware," Oden said.
While he has not heard of this particular scam, he said some scammers call and claim they are repossessing a car or getting information for the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service. He said scammers often try to find out birthdates, Social Security numbers and other information so that they can open up credit cards.
"If they are contacting you, I'd be very leery," Oden said.
If you receive one of these calls, Oden recommends taking down the information, hanging up and then using Google or another search engine to look up the telephone numbers and addresses of the agency that called. If you do not have a computer, he recommends asking a family member to help or going to the Lodi Public Library where staff can help look it up.
Then, Oden said, people can call the offices directly to make sure they are talking to an actual employee of the organization or government agency that called.
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.