Crime

How scammers are getting some senior citizens to hand over their debit cards

dneal@MiamiHerald.com

The attempted victimization of three Boynton Beach senior citizens spurred a police warning on Wednesday about a phone scam that could strike any of South Florida’s elders.

Elements of this scam: two criminals, a phone and a little information about the target’s bank account. All the known targets live in the Hunters Run community.

As described by Boynton Beach police, a 75-year-old woman got a phone call from someone claiming to be from her bank.

“The suspect told the 75-year-old victim that her accounts had been compromised,” said an email from Boynton Beach police public information officer Stephanie Slater. “The victim believed the suspect because she knew very specific information about her checking account, and who else but a bank representative would know that information?”

The “bank representative” told the woman that someone from the bank would be coming by to pick up the debit cards connected with the account. Sure enough, someone knocked a few minutes later. The person at the door claimed to be an associate of the “bank representative” on the phone. That woman took the debit cards with a promise to return soon with replacements.

“She never did,” Slater wrote. “The scammers withdrew thousands of dollars from her bank account.”

Before the day was out, the scamming pair worked an 88-year-old man who gave up all six Wells Fargo credit and debit cards.

The third target, a 71-year-old man, called Chase Bank after giving up his debit card numbers to the caller. When Chase told him nobody had called, they canceled his cards and changed account numbers before any fraudulent charges could be made.

It’s worth it to remember that banks don’t share bank information over the phone. Also, having some information about your bank account doesn’t mean the caller has any association with your bank. Checking account information hardly is secret — the account number is on the bottom of every check — and scammers have been known to steal mail to get account numbers.

And just as the IRS doesn’t phone threats to pay your debts with cash or gift cards, banks don’t send people to your house to pick up debit cards that need to be removed from use.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.


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