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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beware of Schemes Exploiting Senior Citizens and Users of Facebook!

Less than six months ago, I received an 'instant message' via Facebook from a close friend telling me that he and his wife were the victims of a mugging in London.  I had no idea that my friend was traveling abroad, so naturally I was immediately concerned.  The dialogue went something like this...

"Hi James, <blank> and I are in serious trouble!  We were mugged last night in downtown London and all of our cash and credit cards were stolen!  We are going to miss our flight if we can't come up with $1500.00 immediately!  Can you help?"

Naturally, I wanted to help, but was very suspicious of the message.  Keep in mind... this was happening in 'real time' and was being sent to me as I sat in front of my computer.  They continued...

"James are you there?  We need the money sent Western Union ASAP!  Can you help us?"

I picked up my cell phone and called my friend in need.  He answered and told me that he was at work and his wife was at home.  I told him his Facebook account had been compromised (hacked) and that he should contact Facebook ASAP before someone is swindled out of money.

Sadly, my friend's niece sent $1500.00 and then another $1000.00 by debit card via Western Union before he managed to shut the account down.  She is only 21 years old and lost most of her savings.

Recently, Wrentham seniors have reported being swindled out of thousands of dollars by a similar scheme over the telephone.  I share my story because, even as a police officer for over 15 years, I felt compelled to do something to help my friends.  I was genuinely concerned!  Thankfully I had the presence of mind to make one simple phone call to check the story, or I too would have been swindled.

These types of thieves are incredibly sophisticated and resourceful.  Before you send anyone any money, PLEASE take the time to verify the information you are being given.  Call a friend or family member to help you figure out if the story is true or is just a scheme. 

Senior citizens are frequently targets of schemes like this.  Please let your loved ones and friends know before their life savings are stolen.

Sgt. Jim Barrett