Scammers rely on complacency and trust to successfully ply the unsuspecting into providing personal and financial information, which will ultimately be used by thieves to further their goal of transferring your wealth to their pockets.

What is astounding is that despite the media attention aimed at informing the public of these scams, people continue to willingly fall victim.

Older folks are particularly vulnerable to fraud for a number of reasons. However, victims of scams include people of all ages — including both the educated and uneducated, white- and blue-collar workers and the “sMar.t and not-so-sMar.t” folks in all income categories.

In the 2014 AARP report “Caught in the Scammer’s Net,” a list of factors that make adults more likely to be victims of fraudulent scams was published.

As pertains to investment fraud, you are likely to be targeted if you are a white, educated, middle-aged man who has an investment portfolio and is under financial pressure, the report said.

Regarding the scamming of older folks, it is true that seniors get hit hardest by the unscrupulous and as a group are more likely to lose a significant amount of money to fraudulent schemes, but that’s largely because scammers target them disproportionately.

Fraud researchers at Stanford University found that the elderly have a difficult time spotting liars because of a decline in an ability to read other’s emotions with accuracy. However, these same researchers also found that seniors’ long life experiences helped them spot fraud better than folks in younger groups. In short, seniors appear to be no more susceptible to fraud than anyone else.

The fact is, seniors are disproportionately targeted, but once targeted, they are no more likely to become successful targets than other age groups.

According to the American Psychological Association, over 30 million Americans are sucked into some form of financial fraud each year.

These scams and frauds include, but are not limited to, online dating deception, debt-collection scams, fake rental or sales ads, worthless or nonexistent product sales and work-at-home schemes. Once the scam is uncovered and publicized, these criminals will either move to more fertile ground or initiate a fresh scam.

As I’ve written in previous columns in addressing fraudulent schemes, scam artists alter their tactics to appeal to the vulnerabilities of their intended target.

Seasons play a huge role in the advent or resurgence of any particular scam. During the holidays, it was the gift card scam that made the news.

At tax time, the IRS scam emerges as the scam of choice for the more ambitious thug.

IRS scam

The IRS continues to warn consumers to guard against scam phone calls from thieves who claim to be IRS officials. These louts attempt to trick victims out of their money or personal information.

Scammers make unsolicited phone calls, during which they claim to be an IRS official and demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. The victim is directed to remit payment in cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. There are numerous variations of this scam.

Scammers cast a wide net by using robo-calls to reach as many victims as possible. Know this: The IRS will never contact a taxpayer by telephone under any circumstances unless a written bill has previously been sent by U.S. mail.

Any official correspondence will be conducted by mail.

Folks young and old, if you receive a telephone call from anyone posing as a government official, and you have never received a bill through the mail, it is a scam. Do not respond. Hang up and notify police.

Assaults

Eight assaults were reported this week. All of these involved family violence. More assaults went unreported for a variety of reasons including the victim’s reluctance to cause the incarceration and subsequent fines and fees associated with the judicial process for the batterer. That excuse doesn’t hold water. The abuse will only recur.

  • An assault by contact/family violence was reported Feb. 28 in the 1100 block of West Business U.S. Highway 190.
  • An assault by contact/family violence was reported March 1 in the 2000 block of West Reagan Avenue.
  • An assault with bodily injury/family violence was reported March 2 in the 1000 block of Deorsam Drive.
  • An assault with bodily injury/family violence was reported March 2 in the 100 block of Stagecoach Circle.
  • An assault with bodily injury/family violence was reported March 2 in the 400 block of Summers Road.
  • An assault with bodily injury/family violence was reported March 5 in the 400 block of Sunset Lane.
  • Two separate counts of assault with bodily injury/family violence were reported March 5 in the 500 block of Bermuda Street.

Thefts/burglaries

Ten thefts/burglaries were reported to police this week. My experience tells me that more of these crimes have yet to be discovered and reported.

  • A burglary of a building was reported Feb. 28 in the 4100 block of Primrose Drive.
  • A theft of medication was reported Feb. 28 in the 500 block of North First Street.
  • A theft of makeup and key rings was reported March 1 at a retailer in the 2700 block of East Business U.S. Highway 190. Potential thieves, this retailer has surveillance systems and loss prevention personnel on site. Big brother is watching you.
  • The theft of headphones was reported March 2 in the 400 block of South 25th Street.
  • The theft of a street sign was reported Mar. 2 at the intersection of Big Divide and Jacob Street. This sign will no doubt be located in the bedroom of a guy named Jacob.
  • A burglary of a building was reported March 4 in the 1500 block of Bluffdale Street. An air compressor and ceiling fan valued at $244 were reported stolen.
  • The theft of two firearms was reported March 4 in the 900 block of Tammy Drive. Because the items stolen were firearms, this theft is a felony. This theft is particularly troubling because of the potential uses of untraceable guns.
  • A burglary of a habitation was reported March 3 in the 100 block of Dixon Circle. Electronics, hearing aids and currency valued at $5,005 were reported stolen.
  • A theft of items valued at $90 was reported stolen March 5 in the 3000 block of Lois Circle.
  • The theft of an iPad was reported March 2 in the 2100 block of Liberty Street.

Other crimes

  • Criminal mischief was reported Feb. 28 in the 900 block of Chalk Street.
  • Criminal mischief was reported Feb. 28 in the 700 block of Traci Drive.
  • Criminal mischief was reported March 2 in the 700 block of Constitution Drive.
  • Criminal mischief was reported March 2 in the 700 block of Mueller Street.
  • Criminal mischief was reported March 2 in the 1200 block of Phil Avenue.
  • Criminal mischief was reported March 4 in the 2200 block of Gail Drive. Damage to vehicle paint was valued at $2,500.
  • Criminal mischief was reported March 4 in the 1100 block of Golf Course Road.
  • Criminal mischief was reported March 3 in the 1200 block of South 19th Street. Damage to a window valued at $200 was reported.
  • Breach of computer security was reported March 1 in the 1100 block of Timmons Drive.
  • Fraudulent use/possession of identifying information was reported March 1 in the 2900 block of Carroll Drive.
  • Fraudulent use/possession of identifying information was reported March 2 in the 900 block of Northern Dancer Lane.
  • Fraudulent use/possession of identifying information was reported March 3 in the 800 block of South 25th Street.
  • Fraudulent use/possession of identifying information was reported March 4 in the 1300 block of Eagle Trail.
  • Evading arrest/detention with a vehicle, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and credit card abuse was reported March 2 in the 700 block of Constitution Drive. An arrest was made. This one-person crime wave will fill the court docket.
  • Forgery by passing was reported March 3 in the 900 block of South Main Street.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a Copperas Cove resident.​

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