Scams have become a widespread problem across Nassau County, from phone calls demanding money to strangers showing up at the door posing as a contractor or home repair person to identity theft. In Glen Cove, residents have fallen prey to a variety of these scams in recent months, and the worst part is, victims are often not even aware of the scam until it is too late.
“Identity theft-type crimes have skyrocketed,” said Det. Lt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department. “A tremendous amount of people have reported a data breach…the cyber crooks are working hard.”
In early March, the police recovered a skimming device on an ATM machine at the 7-Eleven on Glen Street in Glen Cove. While the removal of that particular device meant those credit card numbers weren’t compromised, Nagle suspects the criminals may have been active at that spot for a few weeks.
“I’ve had a rash of complaints from people claiming to have lost money since we recovered that device,” Nagle said. “I suspect they took off the scanner and put a new one on.”
He said he knows of six or seven accounts that were affected at that location.
When it comes to calls demanding money, Nagle said most of the callers are not even in the U.S., and the money goes onto cards that are not traceable.
Since anyone can be a target of a cybercrime without even being aware of it, Nagle warns to constantly check bank accounts and credit reports for any suspicious activity.
Other popular scams to hit the community involve phone calls from people posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees demanding back taxes be paid through money wires; calls from “bail bondsmen” demanding money or people showing up at a house to do work that was never requested, in which they then overcharge for.
“I always tell people, if you’re not expecting anyone, you don’t need to open the door,” said Nagle.
Two recent incidents that happened in February targeted seniors specifically: two men entered a home of an elderly couple and stole cash from their safe, and the same day, a similar attempt was made at another home, but, luckily the home health aide intervened. Later that week, an anonymous donor repaid the couple, who had lost their life savings.
The burglary is still under investigation and the department has been in touch with other jurisdictions; Nagle said with these “gypsy-type of criminals” it’s much harder to pin them down, though they do have some leads which he was not able to discuss.
“I’m just happy to see that, in this instance, someone stepped up and wrote a check for the amount of money lost,” Nagle said.
After the two incidents in February, they went to the Glen Cove Senior Center to talk to members and implemented a weekly program where seniors can voice their concerns directly to a police officer; Brian Miller is the police liaison, who visits the center every week.
Shirley Pinckney, the senior advocate for the Senior Center, said that they make a point of discussing scams on a regular basis at the center, and have brochures and books available to help raise awareness.
“We tell them, if you’re not sure about the caller’s identity, hang up,” said Pinckney, noting that a lot of their members have been victims or near victims.
“Most are caught in time, but some have gone so far that the seniors have gone to the bank to get money,” Pinckney said.
Scams that she has heard of involve callers asking for money for scholarships as well as the IRS and fake kidnapping scams, plus people showing up at the door asking to fix the doorbell.
She said the addition of the police liaison so far seems to be helpful to the members.
“We work together and resolve the situation,” Pinckney said.
For more on scams across the county, visit www.longislandweekly.com.