Seniors scam busted by Hornell shipping company

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AIMS Self Storage and Moving Center employees step in to save approximately $14,000

Scam prevention tips from Allegany County Deputy Sheriff Scott Cicirello

By Andrew Harris

The owners of a Hornell-based business, AIMS Self Storage Pack and Ship Store on the south side of town, are very conscientious and civic people. As sponsors of this site, we have gotten to know Eric and Mary Weyand enough to realize that they love this community and care about what happens to their neighbors.

Being very invested in both business and community, the people of AIMS believe in the adage “see something, say something”. Especially when it comes to old people getting scammed by a number of malefactors.

As an authorized shipping center for UPS, FEDEX, and USPS, the folks at AIMS are well aware that some of the scams roam the community that uses their services. Recently, this awareness spared an elderly person from major loss due to these criminal activities.

Owner Mary and Marcus Hubbard, the facility’s manager, were able to stop a senior from shipping $14,000 in cash to scammers. Unfortunately, this is not a unique experience. They have stopped many other species expeditions over the years. Unfortunately, it is likely that other submissions were not detected.

Wow. Someone had convinced this elderly person that it was necessary to send thousands of dollars by overnight shipment. Even though the quasi-scam was trying to donate to a good cause, it just goes to show how vulnerable the elderly population is to the myriad of scams we all have to deal with.

Mary, Marcus and his AIMS crew, being quite aware of these types of situations already, used a number of clues to be able to intervene. The first clue was that the address and the need for overnight shipping. Second, the customer reported that he was shipping documents, but had a small box that did not fit the documents. When the reason for using expensive next day shipping and the size of the box didn’t make sense, Mary informed the customer that she should inspect the package.

That was all it took for the loved one to admit she was shipping a huge wad of cash. After the confession, she was quite relieved and grateful to have help with her problem.

Mary and staff helped the elderly person call her bank immediately for a fraud alert while she was in the store. In some cases, where warranted, they will contact the Hornell Police Department for assistance.

The client’s attempted scam was averted and her $14,000 was saved while learning a very valuable lesson.

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Many of us can relate to a grandparent, relative, or friend who can’t see through the scam and sends money to a shady operator with the best of intentions.

How can this be avoided?

We spoke to the president of the ALCO Federal Credit Union about the situation and asked him how often the credit union encounters scams.

Michael Miller explained that most scams are digital theft attempts:

“A fairly common problem that we’ve seen a few times is computer malware popping up and people calling it ‘Microsoft’. They sometimes let them take control of their computer and make it look like they have deposited money into an account and try to get them to return the money that was overpaid to them. I would say in this case that if there are any questions regarding your computer, you should ask a local computer repair shop to help you. Any time you are asked to purchase gift cards as a form of payment, it is essentially fraud. If you are asked to transfer money, be open with your financial institution and ask questions. A good financial institution will ask polite questions to verify that their member/customer is not the victim of fraud.

Allegany County Deputy Sheriff Scott Cicirello is often invited to speak to groups of senior citizens about the dangers of online and other scams. Cicirello provided us with some of the major red flags he includes when raising awareness to prevent fraud against seniors:

  • A payment you usually make to a reliable source seems unusual or too high. To ask questions.
  • A requested payment comes with a story that seems weird. Red flag.
  • Urgent or requires immediate attention. red flag
  • If the source asking for the money tells you not to tell anyone, including the bank.
  • Poor grammar skills, use translation software that doesn’t look quite right
  • Constantly check your account and credit card balances – daily if possible
  • Configure monitoring through your banks to receive alerts
  • Use mobile apps if available – have the family set up
  • Check your credit report twice a month – I use credit karma – free
  • Do not make any payments requested by text or email without verifying the source over the phone. DO NOT USE a phone number they give you.
  • Never provide personal information
  • To ask questions. If you don’t feel well, don’t do it.
  • Designate someone you trust to help you. Ask them questions before making payments.
  • If you suspect fraud, contact the Adult Protective Service or local county state police.

The old adage, “see something, say something” is more important than ever, especially in the effort to protect the most vulnerable. Scammers are everywhere, brazen and often computer-generated. They send messages and emails by the thousands in hopes of finding one or two who will fall prey.

Thanks to the AIMS team for saving the day and reminding us all to be on the defensive when financial scams occur.

Thanks to Deputy Cicirello and the Allegany County Sheriff’s Department for providing the helpful chips for everyone, regardless of age.

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