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Farmington Hills

May 15, 2013

Police warn residents to be aware of potential scammers

Phone, email and door-to-door are all potential scam methods

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

FARMINGTON HILLS — Police are warning residents to exercise caution if they receive a suspicious phone call or email, as scams, especially those targeting senior adults, continue to occur.

“The one that I see most often is the phone call from someone indicating a family member or friend is stuck out of country and needs money for bond, etc.,” Farmington Hills Police Cmdr. David Stasch via email.  “The potential victims are asked to send a money order to a location outside of the U.S.

“Senior adults seem to be targeted for the above scam. However, the same type of scam is also tried by email blasts to contacts.”

Bernardine Shaw, 77, a resident of the all-senior River Pine Subdivision, said she and her husband have each had scammers call them in the past two months. Most recently, she received a call in April from someone claiming to be her granddaughter, who had legitimate plans to be in Chicago at the time. The caller said plans changed for the recent college graduate; she was in New York City instead and had been arrested for driving under the influence.

“When I picked up the phone, this young woman’s voice said, ‘Grandma?’ I said ‘Jenny?’ So I gave her the name,” Shaw said. “She said she needed money for an attorney, and then my husband grabbed the phone and asked ‘What’s your last name?’”

That’s where the caller faltered, incorrectly giving Shaw’s last name and prompting the Farmington Hills resident to call police.

“When you hear your ‘grandchild,’ you think it’s their voice,” Shaw said. “It’s not unusual for grandparents to be sympathetic to their grandchildren. If you really believe it, say I’ll call her parents or her cellphone.”

Shaw’s husband received a similar call six weeks prior from a man claiming to be their grandson, saying he was stuck in the Philippines, but the location quickly tipped him off and he hung up.

“These crimes and attempts should be reported to the police,” Stasch said via email. “Most of these attempts are generated from out of the country. They are difficult to prosecute because the suspects normally can’t be identified.”

Kristin Bixman, the Police Department’s crime prevention technician, said a few basic guidelines are to never give your Social Security number to anyone, never respond to offers that require you to send money prior to any type of service, never enter your credit or debit card information on a non-secure site, and check your bank accounts frequently.

“As far as scams generated or conducted over the phone or Internet, there is such a huge plethora of information,” Bixman said via email.

She said www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud has a lot of good information, as well as examples of some commonly known scams, both online and off.

Farmington Hills has a solicitors and peddlers ordinance to help avoid door-to-door scams, such as people posing as inspectors from the city or utility companies to gain entry into a residence, often while a second person sneaks into another part of the house for a robbery.

The local ordinance restricts the hours of soliciting from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earliest; prohibits solicitors from entering property with “no soliciting” or “no trespassing” signs posted; and also prevents them from remaining on private property after having been asked to leave.

“As far as door-to-door, we don’t see this as often,” Stasch said via email. “The city has a solicitor ordinance and solicitor licensing that requires background checks. The ordinance is strictly enforced. Occasionally, we see someone pose as a utility worker.”

When a stranger appears at the front door, police said residents should talk to them through a locked door, not let them inside. Ask them to display their city-issued permit and contact police if there are still concerns about the person at the door.

For more information, visit www.fhgov.com, click on the “Quick Links” drop-down menu and select “Code of Ordinances.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.