Former Riverbank Chamber of Commerce president and local banking official Carla Strong is warning consumers about a current scam being utilized in the area. She was notified of it through a customer, who came to her in tears. The woman, Strong said, is elderly and originally from Romania.
“You get the picture, she is an easy target for the crooks,” Strong wrote in an email she sent out in a recent mass mailing.
Strong, with WestAmerica Bank of Riverbank and Modesto, said a man claiming to be an officer had been calling the woman for several days but when she called back, no one would talk to her. When they did connect, the man who identified himself as “Officer John” told the woman her tax preparer had made multiple mistakes preparing her returns, “the IRS is after her and she must pay now.”
According to the woman, she was told that it was imperative for her to bring $4,564 dollars to a business location on Oakdale Road in Modesto. She was told to bring cash only and that the “officers” would see to it that her debt was paid. If she didn’t bring the money, the officer said, she would be arrested and taken to jail.
“I am so thankful she came to me before withdrawing money,” Strong said. “With her in tears and close to hysterical with fear, I called Modesto Police Department; they are getting so many complaints every day that they won’t even take a report if the person didn’t pay out money.”
Strong said this scam, along with others such as having a person pose as a relative needing money to get out of jail, continue to work but officials want to get the word out to all to be on the lookout to protect themselves against them.
“For those of us still in the business world we have difficulty understanding why people believe these calls,” Strong noted. “These guys are good at what they do; they know exactly what to say to frighten someone into believing this is real.”
Strong said happily, this story had a good ending in that the woman did not withdraw any cash to give to the “officers” and contact was made letting the scam artist know there would be no money coming and that the police were contacted regarding his attempt at extortion.
“She came here to pull the money out, and she came in, so upset, we obviously didn’t let her have the money,” Strong said of the elderly bank customer. “We talked her down, talked her through it.”
Strong said people need to be watchful and always err on the side of caution.
“There were probably 60 people on the list,” Strong said of those that got her mass email regarding the incident, “and at last 10 replied saying the same thing happened to them.”
Other popular scams range from a person calling or emailing saying that your computer has a virus and they can fix it but need some pertinent personal information, or one in which the caller indicates they are from the Internal Revenue Service and demand payment.
“The IRS is not going to call you on the phone,” Strong said. “The officer I talked to at Modesto Police Department, he said they are getting at least 100 calls a day about these.”
To that end, WestAmerica Bank, in conjunction with Walgreens and Catholic Charities, will be hosting a Safe Banking Seminar in Riverbank in October, along with a free flu shot clinic and panel discussion on senior health and safety issues.
More information about the Oct. 24 event will be available in upcoming issues of The News.