Sheriff's Office Warns of the Rise in Scams Targeting Seniors

[April 27, 2013, Bel Air, MD] — Harford County Sheriff's Office deputies are taking this opportunity to educate about scams that target seniors and other vulnerable adults in our communities. Sheriff Bane is committed to providing safety information to help community members recognize these scams and avoid becoming a victim.

As summer approaches and more people are vacationing, scams called "relative in danger" are sure to be on the rise. In this scam, the perpetrator will act as a vacationing relative, or friend of, who is in need of money. The stories range from the relative having been robbed, to being in an accident, and being wrongfully arrested. In each of these scenarios, the scammer describes the emergency and asks for a credit card number or wire transfer to help the "relative in danger". If you fear a relative may be in actual danger, hang up and try to reach that person or someone who may have recently been with that relative to verify the story. You can also contact law enforcement in that area to see if a robbery or accident involving your relative was reported.

A "sweepstakes scam" is also currently making its rounds. In this scam, the caller tells the victim that they have won a sweepstakes. Generally, the sweepstakes winnings are claimed to be from an out of state lottery. The scammer asks the victim to send payments for tax purposes by check, or wire transfer. They also request the victim's social security number and bank account information, claiming to be setting up direct deposit of the winnings. Some scammers go as far as to pretend to have the "FBI" call to verify the winnings. Be skeptical for any lottery that requires you to purchase something in order to win, or is asking for money upfront. It is important to remember that only the IRS collects taxes after a lottery or sweepstakes win.

Lastly, Sheriff Bane wants to remind community members of the home improvement scams that seem to resurface this time, each year. Scammers, posing as home improvement contractors, go door to door offering services. Many times they take the victim's money for services and never return to complete the work. They may also offer a "free inspection" and afterwards encourage the homeowner to invest in costly repairs that were not needed. When selecting a contractor, it is important to be leery of companies that insist on cash only, are not licensed in the state of Maryland, or require you to pay in full upfront.

As always, be vigilant, and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement. Visit our website at for more information on these and other scams.

Public Service Announcement

April 27, 2013


  • Cristie Kahler

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