Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido talks to members of the community about the different types of scams that prey on the public.

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido talks to members of the community about the different types of scams that prey on the public.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Lucido holds workshop to focus on scams, fraud

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published July 1, 2024


MACOMB COUNTY — When you fill out an application online — which could include your name, home address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name — and then push the send button, where does the information go?

“Do you know where the information is stored?” Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido asked during a workshop on scams held June 18 at the South Campus of Macomb Community College in Warren.

There’s a good chance it’s being sold or transferred to a third party, and that’s how your email inbox fills up with unwanted messages and your cellphone number gets out to solicitors. It also opens up the door for scammers to obtain personal information from unsuspecting people who ultimately steal their money and even their identity.

“We’ve changed the way we’ve done business,” Lucido said during the workshop he coordinated with Chase Bank representatives. “We’ve come a long way with technology, but we’ve also learned we’re getting spoofed, scammed and everything else. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of fraud, a tremendous amount of injustices from people’s money being taken. The World Wide Web has been devastating for some people.”

In an effort to prevent fraud among the public, especially senior citizens, Lucido published the booklet called “Stopping Crimes Against Macomb Seniors,” also known as S.C.A.M.S. The 30-page publication includes information about identity theft, internet fraud, guardianship, phone calls, scams and more. Lucido said when personal information is filled out, people are inadvertently giving permission to companies and other entities to sell or transfer that information.

“They’re poaching your email,” he said. “They’re selling your emails.”

When filling out forms, Lucido suggested that people use the “opt out” selection so their personal information isn’t sold. Lucido and the Chase Bank representatives shared other tips to watch out for. There are four components scammers use to hook potential victims: pretend, payment, prize or problem, and pressure.

They’ll try to convince gullible people of an existing relationship, instruct them to send money in a very specific way and often state the matter at hand is urgent. They usually offer a great reward or scare people with grave consequences.

“Spoofing” is when scammers call from phone numbers with caller IDs that look to be from respectable organizations but are not.

“Phishing is when you get an email that looks reputable but asks you to call a fraudulent number, respond to the email or go to a website and enter personal information. “Vishing” is like “phishing” but is done over the phone by voice instead of email.

One way scammers cheat people out of their money is by impersonating a police officer, the IRS, U.S. immigration authorities, the Social Security Administration, Medicare or your bank. These “scammers” will tell their victims that they need to send money right away to fix a problem with their banking or medical insurance, thus making off with the person’s finances.

Pretending to be a technical support person at a well-known company is another way swindlers prey on vulnerable people. Sometimes, unsuspecting people, too, will be conned when they think they have “won” or “inherited” money. Even family members can be deceitful and take advantage of learning a family member’s personal information.

Anyone should also be careful on dating websites as scammers can use a fake ID to build what feels like a real relationship. If someone you are dating online asks for a substantial amount of money for an emergency or a medical issue, that is a red flag.

Lucido said there are many elder abuse and fraud cases “going on right now” in the county.

Lucido also passed out a packet about rip-off artists. For instance, scammers are using artificial intelligence to mimic the voice of a loved one who claims to be in a distressing situation, tricking their victims into sending money or personal information.

“Don’t act without thinking,” the packet states. “Never wire transfer, send money or buy gifts in response to a phone call.”

People are also advised to remove audio recordings of yourself and loved ones from social media sites to prevent scammers from manipulating voices. It’s also important to review all your accounts once a month, and make sure to review all your policies and documents at least once per year.

Shelby Township resident Shelly DeFour was among the small group of attendees at the South Campus presentation. She said she is glad she learned about the chance to “opt out” when filling out applications.

“That was a very good informative piece of information,” she said, adding she thought the entire workshop “was really good.”

Macomb County Commissioner Don VanSyckel, R-District 5, attended the presentation.

“I want to support the prosecutor’s efforts to distribute the information,” VanSyckel said. “It’s very important our seniors to be educated.”

VanSyckel said the “Stopping Crimes Against Macomb Seniors” material is available at the Sterling Heights Library, 40255 Dodge Park Road, and the Sterling Heights Senior Center, 40200 Utica Road.