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Beshear: Mail scammers swindle $85K from seniors

FRANKFORT – Following multiple reports of losses totaling $85,000 in cash, Attorney General Andy Beshear has issued a scam alert to warn of an uptick in mail scams targeting senior citizens.

While prepaid debit cards and gift cards remain popular for scammers to use to steal from Kentuckians, Beshear said seniors in Boone, Franklin and Greenup counties sent $85,000 in cash to scammers posing as a computer repair technician, a family member in jail and a government official awarding grants.

Beshear said the scammers instructed each victim to send $30,000, $29,000 and $26,000 in cash using FedEx, United Parcel Service (UPS) and United States Postal Service. Two other potential victims in Harlan and Jefferson counties reported a scammer claiming to be a family member needing help after a car wreck but lost no money.

Beshear said his office was able to work with a UPS employee in Ashland to recover one package with $6,000 in cash for the victim in Greenup County.

“With more mail scams targeting seniors, it’s a good time to remind Kentuckians to take the time to call and visit your elderly friends and family and talk about scams and how to avoid them, especially making sure they know never to send money,” Beshear said. “As we continue to review these complaints, we want to thank the UPS employee in Ashland who had concerns about that victim’s package and flagged it for security.”

Beshear has made fighting relentless scammers one of his top priorities. He has fought on many fronts, including working with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) to help Kentuckians avoid mail scams through a ‘Stamp Out Mail Scams’ awareness campaign.

Campaign posters located in post offices across the state help Kentuckians identify, avoid and report common mail scams. The tips include:

• Never provide personal or financial information to an unverified, untrusted person.

• Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true.

• Never send upfront fees using wire transfer, gift cards or cash.

• Don’t feel scared or pressured to act. Take your time and verify.

“Under the right conditions, anyone could fall for a scam,” Postal Inspector Kyle Erhardt said. “But, if you follow a few practical steps, including using caution if you are directed to act quickly when remitting payment or are pressured to be discreet about your financial transactions, you can limit your exposure to fraud victimization and stay financially safe.”

Erhardt said the USPIS investigates any fraud in which the U.S. mail is used. USPIS is committed to fighting fraud and urges anyone who feels that they have been victimized to report it immediately to their hotline at 1-877-876-2455 or website at uspis.gov.

Beshear said his office’s awareness campaigns and Scam Alerts program aim to help Kentuckians combat the Federal Trade Commission report that people 70 and older have lost $41 million in 2018 to impersonation scams compared to $26 million in 2017. One quarter of those reported paying scammers in cash, with a median loss of $9,000.

Kentuckians victimized by scams are urged to file a complaint with Beshear’s office online or by calling 888-432-9257.

To stay up to date on new and trending scams Kentuckians can sign up for Scam Alerts. To enroll, text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV311 (468311), or sign up online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alerts.

In August, Beshear issued a Scam Alert to warn of a fake “Deputy Hart” targeting teachers at Kentucky public schools. The scammer called teachers at school and requested gift card payments to resolve alleged legal matters concerning jury duty.

Beshear’s office has worked with state and federal partners as well as phone carriers recently to implement innovative ways to stop scam phone calls. Last month, Beshear announced that 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies are working together to stop illegal and invasive scam calls. A result of the bipartisan, public-private coalition is that the phone companies have agreed to adopt eight principles into their business practices to fight illegal calls.

Also in August, Beshear doubled down on the successful efforts with phone companies, urging the Federal Communications Commission to compel more phone companies to join the fight. Beshear supports requiring all voice service providers to implement a caller ID authentication framework and to provide free, default call-blocking programs to customers.

While Beshear works to stop scammers and increase scam prevention awareness, his office helps victims of scams recover their losses. Over the past three and a half years, the office has returned more than $2.1 million to Kentucky families.