AIMS Self Storage and Moving Center staffers intervene to save approximately $14,000
Scam prevention tips by Allegany County Undersheriff Scott Cicirello
By Andrew Harris
The owners of a Hornell based business, AIMS Self Storage Pack and Ship Store on the south side of the city are very conscientious and civic-minded people. As sponsors of this site, we have gotten to know Eric and Mary Weyand enough to realize they love this community and care what happens to their neighbors.
Being very invested in both commerce and community, the folks at AIMS are believers in the “see something, say something” adage. Especially when it involves senior citizens being scammed by any number of evil doers.
As an authorized shipping center for UPS, FEDEX, and USPS the folks at AIMS are well aware that some of the scams cycling through the community which utilize their services. Recently that awareness saved a senior citizen a major loss to these criminal activities.
Owner Mary and Marcus Hubbard, the facility manager, were able to stop a senior citizen from shipping out reportedly $14,000 in cash to scammers. Sadly, this is not a unique experience. They have stopped many other cash shipments over the years. Unfortunately, it is likely that other shipments may have gone undetected.
Wow. Someone had convinced this elderly person that it was necessary to send thousands of dollars via overnight shipping. Even if the nearly scammed was trying to donate to a good cause, it simply shows how vulnerable the older population is to the myriad of scams we all have to contend with.
Mary, Marcus, and her crew from AIMS, being already quite aware of these types of situations, used a number of clues to be able to intervene. The first clue was that the address and need for overnight shipping. Secondly, customer reported they were shipping documents, but had a small box not suited for documents. When the reason for using expensive overnight shipping and box size didn’t make sense, Mary informed the customer that she would have to inspect the package.
That was all it took for the near victim to admit she was shipping a giant wad of cash money. After the confession, she was quite relieved and appreciative to have support in resolving her issue.
Mary and staff helped the senior citizen immediately call her bank for a fraud alert while in the store. In some cases when warranted, they will contact the Hornell Police Department for their assistance.
The attempt to swindle the customer was averted, and her $14,000 was saved while learning a very valuable lesson.
Many of us can relate to a grandparent or parent or friend who can’t see through the scam and sends money to some shady operator with the best intentions.
How can this be prevented?
We talked to the President of ALCO Federal Credit Union about the situation and asked how often the credit union encounters scams.
Michael Miller explained that most of the scams are digital attempts at theft:
“A fairly common one that we have seen a few times is when computer malware pops up and has people call ‘Microsoft’. They sometimes let them take control of their computer and make it look like they’ve deposited money in an account and try to have them wire back the money they’ve been overpaid. I would say in that instance that if there are any questions regarding your computer you should ask a local computer repair shop to help you. Any time your asked to buy gift cards as a form of payment is basically fraud. If you’re asked to wire money just be open with your financial institution and ask questions. A good financial institution will ask polite questions to verify that their member/customer isn’t being defrauded.”
Allegany County Undersheriff Scott Cicirello is often asked to speak to senior citizen groups about the dangers of online, and other scams. Cicirello provided us with some of the key red flags that he includes when doing outreach to prevent fraud against senior citizens:
- A payment you usually make to a trusted source seems unusual or too high. Ask questions.
- A requested payment has a story attached that seems outlandish. Red flag.
- Urgent or needs immediate attention. Red flag
- If the source requesting the money tells you not to tell anyone, including the bank.
- Poor grammar skills, utilize translation software that doesn’t sound quite right
- Consistently check your account balances and credit cards – daily if possible
- Set-up monitoring through your banks to receive alerts
- Use mobile apps if available – have family set up
- Check your credit report twice a month – I use credit karma – free
- Do not make any payments requested through text messages or e-mails without verifying the source by phone. DO NOT use a phone number they give you.
- Never provide personal info
- Ask questions. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
- Designate a trusted person to help you. Ask them questions before making payments.
- If you suspect fraud, contact Adult protective Service or the local, county state police.
The old saying, “see something, say something” is more important than ever, especially in the effort to protect the most vulnerable. The scammers are everywhere, brazen, and many times computer generated. They send out messages and emails by the thousands in hopes of finding one or two who will fall prey.
Thanks to the crew at AIMS for saving the day and reminding us all to be on the defense when it comes to financial scams.
Thanks to Undersheriff Cicirello and the Allegany County Sheriff’s Department for providing the bullet points which are useful for everyone regardless of age.