MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — They prey on your emotions with one goal and that’s to take your money. Scammers are always scheming new ways to steal your cash.
It’s a growing problem that agencies across Mecklenburg County and the state are teaming up to combat. One of the groups most vulnerable to scammers are the elderly.
“That number from Kingston, Jamaica called me,” said Mary Strickland as she held up her phone. At 78, she tries to keep her guard up at all times especially when the phone rings.
“I was sitting in there today when someone called to tell me I won $3.5 million and a new Mercedes but I had to send them money first,” said Strickland.
The scammer couldn’t have called at a better time. Strickland was taking part in Scam Jam. The day was dedicated to preventing scams and fighting fraud against seniors. When her phone rang she happened to be listening to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein talk about scammers.
“He told me to answer and listened while the guy talked to me,” said Strickland. Then, Stein got on the phone and told the caller who he was and that he was breaking the law. The scammer hung up the phone.
“Be skeptical. When you get someone calling you or emailing you or contacting you through social media you have to be skeptical especially if you don’t know who they are,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. So far this year he said seniors in North Carolina have lost more than $2 million to scammers. In Charlotte alone his office has received around 900 complaints about scammers.
More than 150 people packed the Mecklenburg County conference room to learn the signs of scams and gather information.
“There are people who are willing to say anything,” explained Stein.
Another scam that seniors fall victim to is the grandma scam where the scammer calls pretending to be a grandchild in need of money.
Experts say you shouldn’t be afraid to hang up the phone or be rude.
“Put aside what your mom or your Sunday school teacher said about being polite to everyone. It’s your money and it’s time for you to ask these deep questions,” said North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.
“Even if you’re not at risk you need to learn it so you can care for your neighbors, parents, and grandparents who may be at risk,” said Stein.
The seniors in the Scam Jam say they feel like they learned valuable information that’s going to help them protect their money.
“All I have is my little social security check and they want to scam me out of that and I’m ready to fight back,” said Strickland.
If you think you may be a victim of a scammer call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.