By Leo Guen
You may find it easy to ignore the e-mail about a Nigerian prince willing to give you his inheritance if only you give him your bank account information. However, such financial scams are only too common.
Scams have changed in nature, due to Chinatown’s unique population. Don’t let yourself be a victim of fraud.
In Boston’s Chinatown, “blessing scams” specifically target seniors through scare tactics. Scammers will call the elderly and try to scare them into paying money or taking other actions by fabricating the lie that their relative is under a “curse”. And, if the scammer is visiting from China on a 30-day visa, our police have little chance of catching the criminal once he or she leaves the country.
Fake lotteries are another scam found in the Chinatown area. Targets are told they have won a lottery and must pay “taxes” on their winnings. Boston police reported that one woman lost more than $50,000 to a fake lottery scam.
Some similar crimes include incidents where a scammer e-mails a target asking for a fee or loan to release the scammer’s funds from a bank or government account, in exchange for a share of the money. Another variant is the offer of a “free” vacation for a $300 processing fee.
Identity theft, which is tied closely with financial scams, may begin with a phone or e-mail scam, in which the caller is “phishing” for information. It always starts with a scare tactic or a sense of urgency. Common storylines include: “There is trouble with your bank transaction. For us to help you, we must verify your identity. Please give us your account number, PIN and date of birth to verify,” or “Your credit card has been de-activated. Please give us your credit card number and Social Security Number; what is the security code on the back of your card?” or “We are your corporate technology help desk. We believe your computer has a virus and must fix it before the virus spreads. May I have your username and password?”
What should you do if you are in the midst of a scam?
If you receive a suspicious call or are targeted by scammers, immediately call 911. Tell the operator to speak Chinese and she will get an interpreter. If you need help, 911 can now identify your calling location, so operators can send you help even if they can’t put an interpreter on the call.
If you don’t want to call 911 or the police, at least tell your children, spouse or relatives so they can help you identify and protect yourself against fraudulent activities now and in the future.