When Richard Prunty of Commack received a call a few months ago from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration demanding $4,400, “I said ‘I know it’s a scam’ and hung up” and reported it to the FBI, he said.
It was the second failed scam attempt on him in the past year. But Prunty, 65, said Saturday that he knew more would come, so he was at a fraud-awareness presentation at Newsday’s 50+ Expo, which featured workshops, exhibits, health screenings, a fitness class and other activities geared primarily at Long Islanders age 50 and older. The Saturday event was at Suffolk Federal Credit Union Arena in Brentwood.
In addition to anti-scam talks, there were workshops and discussions on retirement planning, Medicare, caregiving, medical marijuana and prostate cancer.
Jessica Lucas, community development relationship manager for Bethpage Federal Credit Union, warned attendees of common scams, including one in which the caller claimed to be a grandchild or other loved one who was in trouble and needed money fast. She advised audience members to hang up and telephone the loved one.
Prunty was familiar with that type of scam. About a year ago, someone called claiming to need money to get his daughter out of jail. He hung up.
Robert DeAngelo said he was a scam victim about three years ago when someone called offering a five-day, four-night cruise to the Bahamas. The $600 price seemed like a bargain, so DeAngelo, 58, of Shirley, gave the caller a credit card number. There was never a cruise.
“It was horrible,” DeAngelo said. “I couldn’t get my money back.”
Lucas urged attendees to regularly check financial statements and to never give out personal information to anyone you do not know.
“Being aware of what you’re doing, checking your accounts, checking your statements, knowing where you’re giving your information, who you’re giving it to, what you’re giving it for, that’s what’s going to save you every single time,” she said.
One common trick scammers use is a web-based phone system that displays the phone number of a loved one on the recipient’s caller ID, Lucas said.
Or the caller ID could say “PSEGLI,” said Rob Vessichelli, a senior security investigator for PSEG Long Island.
The caller may claim the resident owes PSEG money and that if no payment is made, the utility will shut power off within a few hours, he said. The resident is told to buy a prepaid debit card and call back with the number printed on the card — which the scammer uses to steal the money.
Some stores that sell prepaid debit cards have posters warning customers not to pay utility bills with the cards but, Vessichelli said, “I’ve spoken to employees who’ve said they’ve spoken to people and said, ‘Listen, if you’re making a utility payment, it’s a scam,’ and they still buy it and they still make the payment because they’re afraid of getting their power shut off.”