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Local woman falls prey to sophisticated scam

The message a former Yakima County Sheriff’s Office employee and her 73-year-old mother want to impart is that no one is immune to fraud.

The pair know first-hand because the older woman was recently duped by a sophisticated scam artist.

“My mother is very smart. She thought she knew what signs to look for,” said the local resident.

As a former sheriff’s office employee, the daughter warned her mother of the dangers. She told her mother that scam artists seem to target older individuals.

But, just a few weeks ago the Sunnyside woman was convinced that DirectTV was giving her a deal on her satellite services.

The younger woman said a man called her mother, claiming to work for the satellite service. Because her mother is a subscriber, she thought the offer of paying just $220 for services now through December would make it easier to live on her limited income.

“The man discussed with her the services she was receiving and what services she would get if she paid the $220,” said the daughter.

She said her mother drove to the local Wal-Mart store and purchased a loaded debit card, returning home to call the man back with the card information.

“He gave her a confirmation number,” said the daughter, noting the man also provided her mother with a name and number so she could refer others to him.

The daughter said her mother did make the mistake of providing the man with social security information, as well as her driver’s license information.

“Never give out social security or driver’s license information over the phone,” said the daughter.

She said her mother is embarrassed about the whole situation, but it is more elaborate than first believed.

The daughter completed a reverse-directory look-up and found the phone number provided to her mother belongs to someone in Raleigh, N.C.

She called the number and the man who answered the phone didn’t speak English, but the daughter was able to establish that the man on the other end of the phone had at least some knowledge regarding the name of the person who had contacted her mother.

Her mother also received a phone call from DirectTV regarding activity on the satellite service account.

The daughter called the company and found that changes were made to her mother’s account a few weeks ago, on about the same date of the fraudulent call.

The satellite company had on record that a phone call requesting a change in her mother’s service had been requested. However, establishing that her mother had not made that call, the company concluded that the scam artist must have placed the call and the company credited her account.

“Now the account has a pin number on it… my mother wouldn’t have known of additional charges to her account until she received her next bill,” said the daughter.

She said because the scam artist changed the services to reflect the discussion with her mother, it made him appear more legitimate. She would have seen she was receiving the services promised.

“We want people to know what is going on so it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said the daughter.

She said it is important to never provide personal information over the phone. She advises citizens to tell unsolicited callers that they will call back. “Call the number on your billing statement, if someone claims to be from a company with which you are familiar,” she said.

Taking it even further, the daughter said, “Request that they bill you.”

‑ Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email JMcGhan@DailySunNews.com

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