Law enforcement warns of scams targeting senior citizens

YORK COUNTY, S.C. — A Fort Mill senior citizen was scammed out by a con artist who was using elaborate techniques to steal her personal information and money.

Betty Burleson tries to be a good steward of her money.

“I don’t even turn the heat on, no matter how cold it is,” Burleson said. “I just sit in front of that heater and try to keep warm and of course, I don’t eat much.”

In December, Burleson said a con artist who claimed to be with Amazon took her entire life savings.

A fake agent “asked Betty about some purchase made on her account” and “due to the charges not made by her, she’d have to speak to another agent,” according to an incident report from the York County Sheriff’s Office.

VIDEO BELOW: Burleson talks about the call she got from a con artist

“(The scammer) said that my identity had been stolen and my Social Security number had been used at five different banks,” Burleson told Channel 9.

Burleson said the man on the phone said he would help keep her money safe from other scams by “legalizing it.”

“He told me exactly what to do,” she said. “Go get money out of the credit union and leave a little bit in my checking account, because he knew I probably had bills to pay. So, he said, ‘Take the money. Get cash.’ And right then, I kind of thought, something was fishy and I said, ‘Why does he want cash?’”

However, Burleson followed his orders.

She stayed on the phone with him, drove to the credit union, and withdrew all she had, which was $15,700.

Burleson put the cash in a box and sent shipped it via UPS to an address in Monterey, California.

She never saw her money again.

“I tried to call the next day and it said the phone was disconnected,” she said. “So right then, that’s when I called the sheriff’s department.”

The Federal Trade Commission says there were more than 52,000 reports of fraud and identity theft in South Carolina in 2022, which adds up to more than $55 million in losses.

Last year in York County, there were 273 fraud cases reported. There were 161 fraud and scam calls last year in Chester County.

“Duke (Energy) is the biggest one I’ve seen lately,” said Capt. Al Crawford, the enforcement division commander in Chester County. “Someone’s calling from Duke (Energy) saying if you don’t pay this bill in a certain amount of time, we’re going to turn your power off.”

Crawford and Lt. Wade Young said thieves have used their names and LinkedIn accounts to try and scam people out of money.

VIDEO BELOW: Law enforcement discusses how a scammer can trick people

“One individual who was a physician, she called me and asked me about it, and I told her, ‘No ma’am. I’m not calling you asking for money,’” Crawford said. “And she said she gave the scammer $7,000 because he threatened to take her license or suspend her license if she didn’t pay it.”

Crawford said the scams have gotten so bad that he’s posted a warning on his LinkedIn profile to inform the public that he is not calling you to collect money.

The investigators said these types of cases are rarely solved because the thieves are hard to track and often outside the U.S.

They’re warning people to stay vigilant.

“Slow down,” Crawford said. “Take the time to investigate it to see if it’s something that’s real. If not, you’re going to get taken.”

Burleson hopes people will follow that advice.

“There are so many things that should have been a red flag,” she said.

VIDEO BELOW: Scam victim Betty Burleson warns others to be watchful

A new law called the Stop Senior Scams Act has directed the FTC to create an advisory group to help seniors avoid being scammed.

To learn how to take part in some of these educational programs, click here.

Here are some basic rules that can help protect all consumers regardless of age:

  • Guard your numbers.
  • Never give your Social Security number, credit card or bank account number to anyone you don’t know who contacts you.
  • Don’t pupfront up front to get a loan, collect a prize, or for upfront settlement, credit repair, or foreclosure help. It’s illegal to require such a payment. (And if someone says you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes that you don’t recall entering, they’re trying to scam you.)
  • Say no to high-pressure sales pitches. If the offer is only good today, walk away.
  • Be cautious when responding to telemarketers, door-to-door sellers, and email or text pitches. Instead of responding to unsolicited offers, decide when and where you want to go shopping.
  • Avoid get-rich-quick schemes. Beware of offers that sound too good to be true, or promise huge rewards with little or no risk.

Con artists also will try to take advantage of grandparents who will do anything to help their grandchildren.

Learn how these types of fraud work here.

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