The Agency Insider with Linda McGlasson

Could This Senior Citizen 'Lottery Winner' Be A Customer Of Yours?

Could This Senior Citizen 'Lottery Winner' Be A Customer Of Yours?

I'm never surprised anymore when I talk to my contacts out in the "real world" of financial services and they tell me about the different types of fraud schemes they're uncovering.

One recent conversation went something like this: "Just got off the line with a dear gentleman who calls me at least twice a month with a new 'deal.' Today's was a woman (with an accent) claiming to be with the state department, notifying him of lottery winnings."

The caller told the customer that he would need to wire money to them in order to release the winnings. Then the woman told the bank customer that her "boss" (who said he was from Liberia) gave the customer a number to call back that had a Jamaican area code.

The fraud investigator says she then walked the customer through the things that did not make sense, thinking that could shut them down with that information. But the customer was still convinced he may be a winner, and said he would call them again to ask.

The customer called back the investigator with another number in the U.S. "I called the number to keep him from getting more sucked in and found it to be the real New York Lottery." She says this twist would make a more gullible person fall for the ploy because "the caller then hears the millions available in the real lottery, and the fraudsters have already checked the winning numbers and given them to the potential victim so that, upon hearing the numbers, he would be convinced he has won the money."

The fraud investigator says that she talked to the lottery's communications division to verify what she already knew, "but most callers probably do not get through to a real person, take the whole call as a verification of their win, and wire the requested funds to 'Virginia.'"

We commiserated on this troubling scenario and came to similar a conclusion: It is the same thing we hear and see every day, but discouraging when someone you think understands is willing to fall for every new version. "The scammers and criminals are getting more talented with these schemes and ever more aggressive," the fraud investigator told me. And even intelligent people who think they know what they're doing are snared by such scams.

Why does this matter to you? This customer who called the fraud investigator could very well be your customer, or even your own relative. It's unfortunate, but the fact is that people who are falling victim to these ploys are the ones who are least likely to come forward to tell people about it after they've lost money. Many times they are senior citizens living on fixed incomes who think they've "finally" won something, or someone who's short on cash because they're out of work.

Now more than ever, institutions have to keep awareness and education of customers, especially those most vulnerable, the senior citizens, on the top of their "must-do" list. Make this a priority in your education and awareness plans for 2010, and your customers will thank you.

About the Author

Linda McGlasson

Linda McGlasson

Managing Editor

Linda McGlasson is a seasoned writer and editor with 20 years of experience in writing for corporations, business publications and newspapers. She has worked in the Financial Services industry for more than 12 years. Most recently Linda headed information security awareness and training and the Computer Incident Response Team for Securities Industry Automation Corporation (SIAC), a subsidiary of the NYSE Group (NYX). As part of her role she developed infosec policy, developed new awareness testing and led the company's incident response team. In the last two years she's been involved with the Financial Services Information Sharing Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), editing its quarterly member newsletter and identifying speakers for member meetings.

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