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Series of scams have targeted Petaluma seniors

A spate of scams targeting senior citizens has Petaluma police warning residents to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.

Three seniors were victimized in financial swindles in recent months.

On Jan. 17, a 95-year-old man fell victim to one of the most common cons reported: the lottery scam. The victim was called and told that he had won the lottery in another state, but to receive his winnings, he needed to pay the taxes on the funds. He sent a total of around $124,000 to the con in a variety of transactions, who continued to contact him posing as both lottery officials and attorneys in attempts to bilk more money out of the senior citizen.

The victim sent the money to addresses in both Michigan and Florida through a national parcel delivery service. Law enforcement officials in those states went to the addresses where the money was shipped, only to find more senior victims who claimed they were told to deposit the funds and then wire the money out of the country to get their lottery winnings. Police pinpointed the suspect's address in Canada, and continue to investigate the case.

In another incident that was reported in December, a 67-year-old man befriended a woman on the Internet. She claimed to live in Ghana and asked the man to send her money so she could visit him in Petaluma. The man agreed, and wired her $4,000.

Several months later, she asked for another $5,000, which she said was needed for immigration documents. A few months later, she contacted him again claiming to need $10,000 because she was stranded in customs in London. When he didn't immediately pay, a male began contacting the victim to demand the money to get the woman out of customs officials' custody. The man agreed to wire the funds. In total, he sent more than $75,000 to Ghana to the fictitious friend.

In the third incident, a 69-year-old woman reported that a man called her claiming to be her grandson, going as far as to provide personal details about the grandson to convince her he was in fact her grandson. The man said he was in Mexico and had been arrested and needed $15,000 for bail. Concerned for her grandson, the woman wired the money to Mexico, but when she didn't immediately hear from her grandson, she called him and learned he had not been in Mexico and it was a scam.

Petaluma police said that residents can call the State Attorney General's Office, Better Business Bureau, Adult Protective Services or the local police department to report if they receive such calls or communications. They also urged families to educate the elderly people in their lives about the pervasiveness of such scams and how to avoid them.

(Contact Emily Charrier at emily.charrier@arguscourier.com)


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