Victims of scams are on the rise locally, with the elderly being primary targets for scams.

Mesquite, NV-

During a sitdown, Mesquite Police Department Sergeant Wyatt Oliver gave a warning recently about the recent rise in scams, especially locally. On Thursday, June 30th, Sergeant Oliver expressed his heartfelt concern for the community members of Mesquite and surrounding areas of the recent rise in the falling victim to the deceitful ploys of criminals through technology and other means to steal people’s finances.

“We know these scams are going on and nowadays, they are everywhere,” said Sergeant Oliver. “However, we do have resources and means to help people, but in order to use them, we need people to report the scams. We can’t investigate and catch these criminals if we don’t know about the crimes.”

Sergeant Wyatt Oliver explained he knows victims of these financial crimes can be scared or embarrassed, they realized it too late, but they can help themselves and prevent others from being victims of the same scams by reporting it to the police. Most scams are targeted at the elderly and people with good hearts who want to help people or animals.

Along with the plea for victims of scams to report the crimes to the police, he also updated the public’s current fads of scams and warnings.

“Be Proactive and be aware,” said Oliver. “Never give out your personal information. Never give out banking or financial information.”

The best thing to remember is to do your research, check sources, check the email addresses they are coming from and remember if you are unsure of the email, text, or call, then it probably is a scam. “Trust your gut,” said MPD Sergeant Oliver.

The recent trend of scams that people are falling victim to is called “Celebrity Catfish Scams” or “Celebrity Imposter Scams” where a celebrity will suddenly befriend you or contact you on social media, then build up a relationship and then start doing requests for money. The reasons for the demands for cash are because they are caught up in a bad situation, have “things” caught up legally, or for a “charitable purpose”, “meet and greet” opportunity, etc. What starts as a smaller amount for the request bids to more requests for money and for bigger amounts. What started as $20 can build up to thousands in lost finances.

Here is a breakdown of some of the recent scams that are being used to scam people out of their finances.

Scams:

  • Celebrity Imposter Scams (Catfish)
    • people create duplicate social media accounts of celebrities and get people to give them money for a large variety of reasons. These imposters are often the same person who will keep asking for money.
    • Sometimes the scammer even streamlines with a real celebrity profile that allows a “pop-up” or posting from the celeb stating they can win a “meet and greet” by clicking a link and paying a certain amount.
    • AARP offers some good advice when dealing with potential celebrity imposter scams with an article about the scam, how to identify it, and what to do and not to do.
    • AARP Article: https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/fake-celebrity.html

  • Subscription Renewal Scam
    • Some have named this scam the Norton Renewal Scam. The scammer sends you an email stating either your Norton Antivirus (or another app, program, company membership, etc.) has been either renewed or has expired. Then they either tell you they have charged your credit card this fee for the renewal, usually around $500 or they need the payment for that amount. They then give you a number to call, where they will gather your credit card number or more from you to give you a refund or make sure your subscription is renewed. The scammer then has access to all of your finances and personal information. Keep in mind the email may even have logos and links that streamline to the actual company’s website and/or social media.

Example of email sent of subscription renewal scam in the inbox.
Example of a Subscription/Renewal Scam email.
Example of the end of the email giving you a phone number to call that connects you with a scammer.
  • Romantic & Non-Romantic Scams & Extortions –
    • Scammer contacts victims through social media apps and sites or dating apps/sites. The scammer will build a relationship of trust and become “friends” and then will request help or financial need and request personal and financing information or money through a transfer or wire. The relationship-building may include swapping videos or pictures and sexually graphic photographs/videos. Then they will blackmail you by threatening to send the images to all your friends and family unless you send them money. This was the biggest scam last year in 2021.
    • Almost all the time, the pictures/videos are stolen from hacked dating and social media sites and never are the actual person who the victim is communicating with.

  • Money laundering/Criminal Enterprise Scams
    • People will be called, texted, or emailed and told they will receive a refund. The victim calls and gives bank or credit card info, and they will receive a deposit (refund) but more than what it was supposed to be. The scammer then asks them to send the difference through the mail, different means of money transfer, or through gift cards or temporary credit cards.
      • For example, the victim is informed of a refund of $50; then, they find a refund of $2,050 in their account. They are told to withdraw the money and send the difference by mail, money transfer/wire, or gift cards/temporary credit cards.
      • The victim(s) are money laundering stolen or criminal enterprise finances to avoid being found by investigation(s), banks, etc. They also may give tell you to keep $100 for yourself.
      • Besides helping them steal and launder money, they also hack the victim’s financial information and can steal from the victim.

  • Inheritance/ Won Contests Scams
    • The most notorious of these scams is the Nigerian Prince/King inheritance scam. The scammer promises with your financial help, they will get a big inheritance or “jackpot” or “won prize” and will send you a massive amount back for helping them.

  • UPS/Customs/Shipping Package Scam
    • The scammer notifies the victim they have a package but need additional money to send it to them or that they need a customs fee paid. The victim gives credit card information, and they lose their money. The scam is done through emails, texts, or calls.

  • Owed Money to Government Agencies (IRS, Treasure, etc.)
    • Email, texts, and calls notify the victim that the victim owes IRS or Government Agency money, and unless they pay the amount owed right away, they will lose their home, car, property, or even be arrested. The victim gives bank and credit card information to pay off “debt,” but the scammer empties accounts, etc.

  • Web Design/Better Business Online Services Scam
    • Email that states the person can help your website or business site get better views and/or better internet results with their services. They get financial information and don’t do any of the services described.

There are many more scams, and just about anything that seems legit online nowadays has a possibility of being a scam. So what to do if scammed?

Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Unfortunately, people are scammed every day. So you are not alone, but you can do some things to help fight against scams. Always report the fraud. The local police have some resources and partnerships to help. This includes the FBI and its Internet Complaint Center, which helps investigate and bring scammers to prosecution.

The FBI Complaint Center website also has a lot of excellent updated information about scams, including the current scams being utilized and resources for victims of crimes.

Sergeant Wyatt Oliver relayed the importance of the following steps to circumvent the possibility of being a scam victim.

  1. Never give out personal information.
  2. Never give out any financial information such as a credit card number, banking account number, CashApp/Paypal/Venmo/etc. account information,
  3. NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR ZELLE ACCOUNT INFORMATION, primarily since most banks use Zelle.
  4. Suspicious or “fishy” emails or texts need to be deleted, and do not click any links in them.
  5. Be careful who you communicate with or accept as friends on social media. Many accounts are fake or imposters. For example, Elon Musk discovered that about 20% of all Twitter accounts were fake or spam.
  6. Always do your research on anything you are unsure of.
  7. “If it is too Good to be true, it probably is!”

For more information about scams, resources for victims, and to file a complaint with the FBI, visit the Internet Crimes Complaint IC3 website at https://www.ic3.gov/.

“If there is anyone who needs help, been a victim of these types of scams, report it to us, and we will help you get the resources and help you need,” finalized MPD Sergeant Wyatt Oliver. “We want to help people realize that we care about our community and its residents. We can’t do any investigations or help if we are unaware of the incident.”

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