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October 19, 2010

Vulnerable to Scams

Chicago Tribune,
October 14, 2010

The man who called himself Clark Mahoney claimed to be an FBI agent. The first time he called the woman, he explained that she and her husband, who are in their 80s, had been scammed. To safeguard their savings and avoid identity theft, it was "recommended" that they empty their bank accounts.
He always used that word, "recommended" — and assured the woman that she had a choice in the matter. He had intercepted a sweepstakes check for $125,000 that was in her name and was formerly in the hands of criminals, he said.
From March to August, the agent called the woman from the northwest suburbs again and again, speaking with a smooth authoritative voice and gracious manners. He couldn't promise her anything, he said, but there was a chance that she could receive the money, as long as the criminals didn't steal her identity first.
"He told my mom that because of the nature of their case under investigation, what he shared with her should remain confidential," said M. Fleischmann, the couple's daughter, who first learned about Mahoney in late September.
Before ending each conversation, Mahoney would provide the next steps needed to protect the couple's retirement earnings. She trusted him and followed his instructions, wiring him money, Fleischmann said.
Her mother, who asked not to be identified, is deeply ashamed that she fell for the impostor's charm. She lost $250,000, authorities say. The revelation that Mahoney is not an FBI agent was just the beginning of an elaborate scheme that is still unraveling. The FBI, which receives "hundreds of cases like this each week," referred it to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after determining that the fraud originated there, FBI spokesman Ross Rice said.
"It is horrendous," Fleischmann said. "I keep telling (my mother) that her mantra should be, 'I did nothing wrong. I have been victimized.'"
While this case deals with an extraordinarily large amount of money, authorities have seen a deluge of such crimes as baby boomers age into retirement. Thousands of older people fall for financial scams every day.





SOURCE:  Chicago Tribune

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