RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s a stunning statistic – fraud and ID theft are a $36.5 billion dollar a year industry for criminals, experts say.
Scams can come by internet, phone call and even right to your front door.
Officials say the best way to protect yourself from being taken is to be educated about scams.
A Cary church took that advice to heart and spent time trying to protect its senior citizens through education, because law enforcement says senior citizens are the most vulnerable segment of the population who are susceptible to scams.
Dozens showed up at Colonial Baptist Church for the scam seminar which featured advice from an expert from the Attorney General’s Office.
Among the people attending the seminar was Merrill Jackson who wanted to be updated on the scams that are out there.
“The scams of 5 years ago are different from the scams of today,” he said.
Jackson says he almost fell victim to a rip-off found when his computer got infected by ransomware.
The computer got locked up and kept flashing a message telling him to call a certain number in order to get it operating again.
“I talked to them, which was a foolish thing to do,” he told CBS North Carolina. “They wanted $400 dollars to take that thing off the computer.”
Just as he started to give the criminal his credit card number, his wife Joan walked in the room and overheard the conversation.
He says she intervened and prevented him from giving the scammer his credit card number.
“The lesson here is be very careful about what you’re doing and don’t give out your credit card number,” he said.
The attorney general’s scam specialist says criminals like to prey on seniors.
“I think the main reason they target seniors is they have the money,” said Natalie Wood Riche. “A lot of times they are after the retirement funds of our elderly.”
One woman at the seminar told of her near miss with a scammer.
Catherine Parrett owns an Apple computer and figured out the “Microsoft repairman” calling her was a scam artist because she knew she didn’t own a Microsoft computer.
But she says her efforts to rebuff the criminal are ineffective and he is a persistent pest.
“This guy calls over and over again,” Parrette explained. “I said, ‘Don’t you have any conscience? I know you are scamming senior people that fall for this.’”
Experts say once someone is scammed they are 6-7 times more likely to be victimized again – which is why they say scam education is so important.
- North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Fraud Hotline: 877-5-NO-SCAM or (919) 716-6000
- Attorney General’s consumer advisory webpage
Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.