They are called ‘do me a favor’ scams – a type of impostor scam where crooks pose as pastors, preachers, priests, rabbis and other religious leaders in order to play on the emotions of people. people and to shoot the hearts of those who feel extremely charitable.
Christina Anastasio, associate state director of Community Outreach for AARP New Jersey, said crooks use email, call or text to impersonate a religious leader or someone working in a place of worship.
Then the scammer can say something like he’s in the hospital where several members of the community die from cancer or some other disease. He or she will say that he wants to do something good for him or her but that he cannot get away with it.
“Can you go to the store and get me $ 1,000 in gift cards and send me the numbers? And don’t worry. You will be reimbursed from church funds,” Anastasio said.
People are easily manipulated because they really believe they are helping a member of the community and they don’t see the risk because they think they will be reimbursed as well, she added.
There are two main red flags to watch out for when it comes to these pro-me scams. Anastasio said that one is if the scammer asks for payments in gift cards.
“The crooks will ask people to buy gift cards and then take a photo of the back or scratch the code and give it to them over the phone. As soon as they read the number to the scammer, the scammer will converts to currency in an instant which is almost impossible to recover, ”Anastasio said.
Scammers don’t want the physical gift card. They just want the victim to buy it and give them a code. It’s easier to get cash and even bitcoin (virtual currency) almost immediately.
Another red flag is if the scammer comes up with some weird reasons why he can’t get the gift cards himself. There is always a reason they are out of service.
“For example, a crook said he fell into a manhole cover and that’s why he couldn’t do it,” Anastasio said.
These scams play on a person’s sense of community and someone’s desire to help others, which she says has been more prevalent during the pandemic.
When people feel isolated, they want to reconnect with the community functions they lack and religious groups are part of that, she said.
Religious groups and places of worship are targeted because they want to be acceptable and effortless for people to contact them. So the crooks can easily find contact information and spoof the phone number or create a fake email account so that it looks like the email, call or text is coming from the place that the devotees. know and trust.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network hotline has seen a slight increase in this type of scam during the pandemic. Anastasio said that, according to the woman who oversees the hotline, complaints about these “do me a favor” scams come in once or twice a month. But with the health crisis, there have been up to six reports per week.
Anyone who has been scammed shouldn’t be embarrassed, Anastasio said. These crooks are career criminals and are extremely convincing. They know how to play on a person’s feelings and make someone appear to be helping them.
Those who believe they have been scammed should call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 to speak to a trained volunteer who will help you navigate where you need to go.
To learn more about frauds and scams in New Jersey, you can go online or participate in a live Facebook session each month about this by following AARP New Jersey @AARPNJ
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