ELIZABETHTOWN — Several local agencies are teaming up to take their own aim at those who target others.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, reports of scams are at an all-time high. Of the more than 3 million reports filed in the last calendar year, 42 percent related to fraud, 13 percent to identity theft, and 45 percent to everything else. Consumers reported paying an average of $450 to scammers, for a total loss to the American economy of $7.44 million.
It is, however, according to the FTC, one of the most underreported crimes, and the organization estimates that only 27 percent of the victims of fraud end up reporting it. The preferred method of scamming, according to the FTC, is telephone, with a full 77 percent of all initial contacts being made over the phone. Email was a distant second, with only 8 percent of contacts being made that way.
North Carolina is no stranger to the crime. Residents of the Tar Heel State reported 74,805 scams to the FTC last year, putting her right in the middle of the pack nationwide. The state is 20th in the nation in reports of fraud and other complaints, with 641.2 reports being lodged for every 100,000 residents. North Carolina’s 9,746 reported cases of identity theft put her 26th in the nation in that category. The most common types of scams in North Carolina are debt scams, representing 34 percent of the fraud complaints, and employment- and tax-related fraud comprise 34 percent of all identity theft crimes reported to the FTC by state residents.
Locally, Bladen County sees its fair share as well.
“There are two types of scammers out there,” said Maj. Larry Guyton with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office. “Those that are physically in the area and those that scam by internet or telephone. Typically, we get (the former) in the spring and fall with people offering to paint barns or seal driveways, or do some type of work. They’ll say they have extra gravel or concrete left over from a job, and they’re trying to get rid of it, or they’ll offer to paint the metal roofs of barns, and their paint is mixed with diesel fuel — it looks really pretty when they put it on, but the first rain washes it off.”
Guyton will be one of several presenters firing back at the scammers. This month, the Lumber River Council of Governments and the Bladen County Division on Aging will be presenting a seminar on scam prevention. Aimed particularly at scams that target elderly consumers, but open to anyone, the seminar will teach attendees how to protect themselves and their families from fraud. Topics include what to do after experiencing a scam and reducing the risk of becoming a victim. Presentations will be conducted by Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Senior Law Project, Senior Medicare Patrol, the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office, Bladen County Department of Social Services, and the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.
As has been the case since the FTC began reporting in 2001, the elderly are the favored target of those who commit fraud. Scammers set their sight on adults over 60 years of age 37 percent of the time.
“Seniors do get scam calls,” said Bladen County Division on Aging’s Senior Director Carol Mitchell. “I know at least two or three that have gotten calls just in the last year. We’re doing this to let them know what scams are out there and give them information to combat them.”
The seminar is free to the public, and lunch will be provided. To register, contact Bladen County Division on Aging at 910-872-6930 by June 12.
The seminar will take place Thursday, June 15, from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at Trinity Methodist Church’s activity building, located at 901 W. Broad St. in Elizabethtown.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.