Seniors targeted in scams across Metro Detroit

Published On: Jul 06 2012 11:00:00 PM EDT

Police are investigating scams that appear to be targeting senior citizens and their money across Metro Detroit.

Police are investigating scams that appear to be targeting senior citizens and their money across Metro Detroit.

The scams are not new, but local law enforcement said they tend to happen during this time of year.

"This is the time of year when these scams occur. We do have a lot of door-to-door scams with the senior citizens. A suspect coming in and wanting to do roof repair or chimney repair or driveway repair," said Detective Daniel McCulley of the Livonia Police Department.

Livonia police said its investigating several reported scams involving senior citizens. McCulley said the department is looking into several reports of seniors getting calls saying they've won the Michigan Lottery.

McCulley said the seniors get calls from a man with a Jamaican-sounding accent telling them they've won the lottery, but that they have to pay the taxes first.

"But in order to get that money, they needed to pay tax on it. The suspect would have the elderly person send certain amounts of money, in tax, to Western Union," said McCulley. "They're expecting money in return, yet the suspect keeps calling and asking for more money."

Livonia police believe there could be more victims than the reports they have received so far.

"I think they're slow to come forward because senior citizens, a lot, once they realize that they were scammed, they may feel embarrassed, that they were scammed, and not want to tell their family. They don't want their family to feel like they can't take care of themselves," said McCulley.

Livonia Police say they have been able to trace these calls to Connecticut and have transferred the investigation to a department there.

Local 4 called several police departments across Metro Detroit to see what other scams are currently a problem. Police in Trenton said they are also seeing a lottery scam, Redford police said they have a case of a renter's scam where someone is collecting money for a deposit on a place that's not available for rent. In Warren, police said someone is making calls hoping to fool a senior that they are a grandchild in trouble and in need of money.

Tom Berry, a retired Detroit police investigator with more than 30 years experience said the grandparent scam is the worst in the country.

"They call you up, they pretend you're the grandson or the granddaughter. And they do that when they get the person on the phone, it can be a male or a female, and you being the great-grandfather or great-grandmother, 'Johnny, is that you?' And what you've just done is you've given them the name. Now, they become Johnny. They're being held hostage, don't tell mom and dad, I need $4,000, I need $2,000, and once you send that, $2,000 that becomes $4,000," said Berry.

"This is a terrible, terrible, terrible scam that is the number one scam that they're getting success on across America," said Berry.

Seniors at the St. Clair Shores Senior Center say they have to keep their guard up because they know scam artists want to target them.

"It happens. You get those letters constantly saying you've won this lottery, you've done this, and so you're always getting something sent," said Mary Cipriano of St. Clair Shores.

Louise Hunt said someone once came to the door of her St. Clair Shores home and offered to wash her windows.

"He said well they (would) do it for $100 and I had to give them a down payment, which I reluctantly did because I don't like to do that," said Hunt.

Hunt said she gave the man $25, but her windows were never washed, and she never got her money back.

McCulley said seniors are more likely to trust someone and that's why scam artists will target them.

"I always use the saying, 'If it's too good to be true, then it is," said McCulley.

Often times in a scam, a person will be asked to wire money. Investigators said that once money is wired, it is nearly impossible to get it back. Even Western Union includes on its form questions about fraud to alert consumers to potential problems before you send your money.

And remember if something is free, you shouldn't have to pay for it.

The Better Business Bureau considers itself a source to alerting people to the latest scams, to see what they have listed, click here.

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