The Suffolk County Police Department is reminding residents to be vigilant of scammers looking to profit during the holiday season.
Criminals are constantly looking for new opportunities to prey on people for financial gain, and the holidays are traditionally a time when people are preoccupied and could fall victim to a scam.
Scammers are also increasingly turning to artificial intelligence “spoofing” tools to clone the voices of individuals who post on social media. Scammers use those cloned voices to create a script to call a family member of the person whose voice was cloned in hopes of convincing an unsuspecting victim to send money.
An 85-year-old Hauppauge man received a call from an individual utilizing artificial intelligence voice change who claimed to be his granddaughter and stated she was arrested and needed $19,000 in bail money. Her grandfather met an individual two separate times on November 9 and turned over the requested cash.
During another recent scam, a 70-year-old Smithtown woman spoke to an individual purporting to be an Amazon representative, claiming someone was attempting to use her bank account to buy electronics. The woman was told since her bank account was compromised, she should turn over her cash to keep it safe. The victim made three separate withdrawals totaling more than $100,000, and the cash was then picked up by the same man on three different dates.
Following the withdrawals, the victim was advised to purchase gold coins at a pawn shop with a personal check of $94,000. After doing so, she sent a photo of the receipt to the suspect, who would then pick up the coins when ready.
While these cases both remain under investigation, it is a reminder of how convincing scammers can be. Financial Crime Unit detectives are providing free scam prevention presentations to community groups and senior centers in an effort to educate the public. Additionally, the department has created safety tip flyers in multiple languages to ensure the message is being received by all residents.
As a reminder, people should be wary of individuals claiming:
• To be part of a legitimate organization that you are familiar with.
• There is a problem or a prize.
• A family member is injured or in jail.
• You need to act immediately or threaten your safety.
• Payment must be made in a specific form, i.e. cash, Venmo etc.
“Residents need to be aware of individuals that are looking to take advantage of the generosity of others during this time of year,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We strongly encourage the public to educate themselves and be cognizant of such operations that are prevalent during the holiday season so that they are protected from scammers.”
“We are reminding residents to resist the urge to act immediately,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said. “Before sending money, speak to a trusted family member or call police. No legitimate company makes threats or demands cash.”
If you are interested in a prevention seminar or obtaining safety tips, contact the department’s Financial Crimes Unit at 631-852-6821.