AARP and Vermont prosecutors to host fraud prevention forum

BENNINGTON -- With a Jamaican lottery scam heavily targeting those in northern New England, the Vermont Office of the Attorney General and American Association of Retired Persons will host a forum to educate the public, especially the elderly who are often targets of scams, in Bennington this coming week.

The forum is free but reservations must be made by calling 877-926-8300, said David Reville, AARP Vermont communications director. The event is set to be held at Bennington Museum on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Reville said it has been a few years since the AARP and some of its partners have hosted such forums and when they did it was in the northern half of the state.

"This Jamaican lottery scam is targeting northern New England in a big way," he said. "We've done these before but it's been a while."

The lottery scam involves people being contacted by scammers claiming their target has won a lottery or some sort of prize sweepstakes. They claim to be from real organizations or from the government and require tax money up front or some kind of down payment for the "winner" to collect on the prize. Many of the scams originate in Jamaica and use an 876 area code.

The lottery scam is not the only scam frequently being run, said Reville. The AARP and other groups have listed some of the most common types, but scammers change tactics often. He said likely more than 1,000 people per month in Vermont alone are targeted by scammers.

"It's very difficult to quantify because it's a highly under-reported crime," he said, adding many victims are embarrassed over being tricked.

Besides the lottery and sweepstakes scam, the AARP says some of the most common sort are:

* Grandparent scam - Scammers pretend to be a target's grandchild in some kind of trouble, typically needing bail money as they've been arrested in Canada.

* Free security system scam - This can be a call or online offer for a free computer security system.

* Credit card rate reduction scam - Scammers offer to reduce a targets credit card rates, all they need is the credit card number.

* Payday loan collection - Scammers claim the target owes money on a loan. These calls can involve threats of legal action.

* Classifieds scam - These are fake emails pretending to be responses to classified ads.

According to the Vermont Office of the Attorney General, 563 complains for "phishing scams" most of them being attempts to access bank accounts by using text messages. Sweepstakes and lottery scams accounted for 220 reports filed with the AG's office.


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