Senior citizens bilked out of $85K in mail scam

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A rash of mail scams targeting senior citizens, leading to the loss of $85,000, has prompted the Attorney General’s office to issue a scam alert.

While prepaid debit cards and gift cards remain popular for scammers to use to steal from Kentuckians, Attorney General Andy Beshear said seniors in Boone, Franklin and Greenup counties sent $85,000 in cash to scammers posing as a computer repair technician, a family member in jail and a government official awarding grants.

Beshear said the scammers instructed each victim to send $30,000, $29,000 and $26,000 in cash using FedEx, UPS and the United States Postal Service. Two other potential victims in Harlan and Jefferson counties reported a scammer claiming to be a family member needing help after a car wreck but lost no money.

Fortunately, in one case, the Ag’s office was able to work with a UPS employee in Ashland to recover one package with $6,000 in cash for the victim in Greenup County.

“With more mail scams targeting seniors, it’s a good time to remind Kentuckians to take the time to call and visit your elderly friends and family and talk about scams and how to avoid them, especially making sure they know never to send money,” Beshear said. “As we continue to review these complaints, we want to thank the UPS employee in Ashland who had concerns about that victim’s package and flagged it for security.”

Beshear says his office is also working with the United States Postal Inspection Service to help Kentuckians avoid mail scams through a ‘Stamp Out Mail Scams’ awareness campaign. Posters in post offices across the state help Kentuckians identify, avoid and report common mail scams. The tips include:

--Never provide personal or financial information to an unverified, untrusted person.

--Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true.

--Never send upfront fees using wire transfer, gift cards or cash.

--Don’t feel scared or pressured to act. Take your time and verify.

“Under the right conditions, anyone could fall for a scam," said Postal Inspector Kyle Erhardt. "But, if you follow a few practical steps, including using caution if you are directed to act quickly when remitting payment or are pressured to be discreet about your financial transactions, you can limit your exposure to fraud victimization and stay financially safe.”

Beshear said his office’s awareness campaigns and Scam Alerts program aim to help Kentuckians combat the Federal Trade Commission report that people 70 and older have lost $41 million in 2018 to impersonation scams compared to $26 million in 2017. One quarter of those reported paying scammers in cash, with a median loss of $9,000.

Anyone who feels they have been victimized by a mail scam can call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

Kentuckians victimized by other scams can call the Attorney General’s office at 888-432-9257.

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