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The original item was published from 11/12/2013 8:40:58 AM to 11/12/2013 8:42:06 AM.

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Public Safety News

Posted on: November 12, 2013

[ARCHIVED] Twin Falls Police Urge Citizens to Be Cautious With Sweepstakes and Other Contests

Scammers are continuing to target the elderly and vulnerable in the City of Twin Falls, and in some cases have wiped out their retirements savings. The Twin Falls Police Department is asking all citizens to be wary of prizes, contests or any requests from unknown parties for money or financial information.

Most recently, scammers targeted an elderly citizen using a ‘sweepstakes’ scam, taking from her several thousand dollars – essentially her entire retirement savings. Scammers from outside of Idaho and even the nation frequently target the elderly across the United States by offering ‘cash prizes’ or’ rewards’, or by claiming to be a relative who is in trouble and needs funds wire to them immediately. In some cases, the criminals build relationships with victims over the phone, asking for incremental transactions or financial information until the victim’s account has been depleted.

“What may be the most disturbing about these incidents is that they target people in their most vulnerable state,” said Det. David Heidemann, Twin Falls Police Department. “Although these scams may seem obvious to some people, our aging population, especially those who have lost loved ones and are seeking some sort of interaction, at times will fall prey to these scams.”

Heidemann recommends that anyone sending funds to an unfamiliar organization or individual, should contact their bank and have them verify the integrity of the receiving account. Banks are kept up-to-date on scams and have the resources to verify financial accounts.

“Our local banks are very good to work with and they will work with us if they see anything suspicious,” Heidemann said. “But it does require the account holder to be open and honest with their bank about where they are sending money and for what reasons.”

In some cases, victims have been unwilling to report scams to their bank or even their family. Mostly out of fear that they will be considered unable to handle their own finances, and could possibly forfeit their financial management to a relative or another financial steward.

Unfortunately, once a victim provides funds or financial information, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to recover the victim’s property. Scammers will set up multiple accounts across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. When they gain access to wired funds or bank accounts, the transaction leaves the United States through a chain of bank accounts and into the scammers accounts where the money is immediately withdrawn - the process can be completed in only a few minutes.

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