AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — “They’re not targeting a specific group,” said Janna Kiehl, President of Better Business Bureau of the Texas Panhandle. “In fact, we see more vulnerability in younger people, because they respond to text messages, they have the technologies that scammers use.”
In the not-so-distant-past, the thinking has been that when it comes to certain scams, like social security scams, the most vulnerable population is senior citizens. But, Kiehl said, that thinking has become more of an illusion, because over time, it’s evolved into younger people who are being targeted more.
“That’s the trend we’re seeing,” Kiehl said. “There’s actually younger people in certain age demographics that are anywhere between 24-34 years old, that are more targeted and they become victims more often to these types of scams.”
When discussing social security scams, age, location, demographics, socioeconomic class, etc. None of that matters. Everybody is a target. Younger people are targeted more, however, because of technology. Text messages, email, and social media are all common tactics used by scammers. Social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, friend requests, even direct messages are all potential points of communication. According to BBB Scam Tracker, one victim in the Amarillo area reported losing $19,000.00 to these scams.
“They want to ‘friend’ a lot of people,” Kiehl said. “They want to respond to everything they receive, and so they really need to stop and check that out.”
One of the most common social security scams is someone getting a call from a person acting as if they’re from the Social Security Association. The scammer says that a car has been found at the border with drugs or blood in it, along with the potential victim’s social security number. According to Kiehl, the goal is to scare the potential victim, create a sense of urgency, or even bully them into giving out their social security information to clear up the false scenario.
“Scammers scam who they can,” said Kiehl.
Getting involved in scams can be a murky area, so be careful. Even if you had no knowledge beforehand, if you participate in a scam, you open the door for scammers to drain your bank account, and possibly your freedom. Scams are illegal at all levels and you can go to jail for participating.
The Social Security Administration will not call you. Kiehl emphasized that they already have your phone number and contact information. They don’t need to verify it.
Another way scammers and bad contractors have been targeting residents on the High Plains is roofing scams. According to the Amarillo Police Department, these types of cons generally appear after large severe weather events, or the string of storms that have come through the Panhandle the last few weeks.
APD Sgt. Carla Burr gave us some tips to protect your wallet and investment if you’re ever approached by anyone offering roofing repair work. First tip, don’t be quick to give money upfront.
“What we want people to think about is if someone is asking you to pay a significant amount or all of what they say it’s going to cost upfront, then it very well could be a scam,” said Burr. “Because these reputable businesses, they might ask for a deposit, but it’s typically not going to be more than a quarter or a third of what the total balance is going to be. And the only reason why they’re asking for that is to be sure you’re not going to not pay them at all.”
Check with your homeowners insurance, Burr added, because they will tell you the proper steps, coverage information, estimated costs, etc. In addition, they work with the roofing repair company until all repairs are complete.
Sgt. Burr said ask as many questions as you need to, ask for references, and do plenty of research. If you don’t know which questions to ask, APD is here to help.
“Ask questions. If all else fails, call us at the police department,” she said. “Let us do some investigating for you. We’ll be happy to help you out on that.”
When in doubt, don’t pay any money up front, don’t respond, don’t interact. Call the Amarillo Police Department at 806-378-4257, or the Better Business Bureau at 806-379-7133.
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