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Con artists find seniors easy prey — beware

This is a message that should be brought to the attention of the public throughout the United States and especially to older people like myself. Con artists seem to find us easy prey. They target us with their evil schemes, and I’m sure that some of us get hooked. “Let’s do it, honey. After all, if it only involves a card from the gift card rack of a large reputable nationwide retail store (so) it must be legitimate.”

My wife has just been the intended victim of such a fraud, but in her case the attempt failed.

Since I am unable to reach so large an audience, I am addressing this to the Oregon Attorney General and to community newspapers in the local area. Here is what took place:

Early this year my wife’s name found its way to the mailing list of Publishers Clearinghouse. She continued to receive mailings from them for several months but those mailings ended in September. (Let me emphasize that this is not an indictment of Publishers Clearinghouse.)

 On Oct. 31 we came home to find a telephone message purporting to be from a representative of Publishers Clearinghouse and asking my wife to call 1-876-420-3407. Out of curiosity she did and I listened in on a second phone. The person who answered told her she was the winner of $5 million and a Mercedes automobile. Though not very articulate, he made every effort to convince her of his authenticity. When she asked how she was to receive her winnings, these were his instructions: “Go to any Rite Aid store and get a Green Dot MoneyPak card. Just pay $405 for the card and ... “

At this point my wife told him she was not going to pay out $405 for anyone and that this was a scam. He tried to convince her of his veracity and she kept rebuking him. It became evident we were not going to get more information about his scheme so I then cut in: “You’re trying to defraud my wife and I’m going to report you ... “ whereupon he exploded with foul language. “F—- you, mister, and f—- your wife” and more in that vein. We ended the call.

We wish that we had led him on a little longer to learn more about how he would have continued. However, the phone number can be traced and I trust that our Attorney General’s office will pursue that lead.

In order to find how the scam might have proceeded, I went to a local Rite Aid store and purchased a Green Dot MoneyPak card for $4.95. It appears that if scamsters can convince the victim to send them the card or merely tell them the card number, there are several ways they can retrieve funds the victim has loaded into the card — $400 if the above attempt had been successful.

Our encounter was with a bumbling amateur criminal who may rarely or never succeed in fleecing would-be victims. However, it is likely that this scheme was devised by a reasonably intelligent criminal and any number of scamsters are probably pushing it throughout the country. A more capable, smooth and articulate con person could be more successful.

Never give personal information or money to a person unknown to you without first receiving conclusive proof that the request is authentic and legal. 

Robert Davis is a West Linn resident.