Weekly Feature

2010-08-26 / Editorial

Bee Editorial

Police warn, educate residents about various scams
Each week, it seems another resident in West Seneca has become the target for one of several popular scams that have hit the Western New York region, as evidenced by this week’s Police Blotter.

At least four residents within the last week and a half have received computer-generated phone messages from a “1-234-567-890” num ber. The caller claims to be an account representative of Cattaraugus County Bank and needs to obtain personal information to verify or access the person’s account, which has been “compromised.”

All four West Seneca victims who reported the incident had the right amount of suspicion and knowledge to hang up without providing any information, especially since they did not have an account with that particular bank.

However, police fear that of the estimated hundreds of phone calls the scam artists make in a week, it takes just one person to comply, subsequently allowing identity theft.

“Once they have that information,” said Detective Lt. David Dudziak, referring to such information as Social Security numbers, “then [the scammers] can access accounts or open accounts in the person’s name.”

Dudziak said the popular scams affecting West Seneca and other neighboring towns have actually been in existence for roughly 50 years. The scams prove difficult to follow up or obtain leads on due to the majority originating outside of the United States, such as in Canada or Nigeria.

Since the Police Department can go only by the reports received, Dudziak said he’s unsure if any resident has fallen for the scam, becoming a victim of identity theft.

“But sooner or later, somebody will,” he said. Dudziak warns residents of another scam, one that specifically targets the elder generation. The caller states that he is the victim’s child or grandchild, and was recently arrested in Canada for driving while intoxicated and needs money for bail. The victim is instructed to wire money to a certain address, usually outside the country, through Western Union.

“Once that money goes out, it’s pretty much gone. There’s no way to recover the money ... it’s virtually untraceable,” said Dudziak.

Others scams involve fraudulent checks, claiming that residents have won the lottery or a sweepstakes. They are instructed to cash the check and send a portion of the money to a certain address for taxes or other fees.

Should you receive such a check or phone call, contact the West Seneca police at 674-2280. Also, visit the Federal Trade Commission website, www.ftc.gov, for identity theft information.

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