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Striking back against scammers: D.A., Matteo launch initiative to combat ‘unfathomable’ jump

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — District Attorney Michael E. McMahon and City Councilman Steven Matteo on Thursday launched the “Slam the Scam” initiative in order to combat “an unfathomable increase” in crooks targeting Staten Islanders recently.

“There has been an unfathomable increase in the number of complaints we’ve received of Staten Islanders falling victim to scams of all types, often resulting in the loss of great sums of money and in some cases entire life savings,” said McMahon. “While my office and the NYPD remain committed to holding scammers accountable when an arrest is made, stopping scams before they happen is key to our success.”As part of the initiative, the district attorney’s office created a hotline borough residents can call to report a scam, 718-556-7226 (SCAM), as well as an online scams tip form.

Staten Islanders will also be able to report a scam by sending an email to reportscams@rcda.nyc.gov.

McMahon will hold a town hall on Thursday, discussing the initiative as well as common scams in the borough, which will be held at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

Scammers have been successfully targeting Staten Islanders, conning them out of $400,000 in recent weeks alone.

In one case, a 60-year-old woman sent personal pictures to someone she met on a dating website, who then started blackmailing her, McMahon said.

The woman ended up sending $20,000 to the person between gift cards and money transfers, but the district attorney’s office was able to intercept $10,000 and return it to the victim.

“Scam artists see an opportunity to take advantage of people when they feel most vulnerable, and unfortunately that is how many people feel during this pandemic and economic crisis,” Matteo (R-Mid-Island) said. “We want to assure Staten Islanders that they are not alone, that we can provide them with the information, resources and support they need to protect themselves. You do not have to be a victim. We can help you fight back.”

Law-enforcement officials previously told the Advance/SILive.com that scammers have been hitting the borough hard, making off with about $1 million the past year.

“You are talking about people’s lifetime fortunes, their inheritance for their grandkids, lifetime savings are being thrown away in a lot of cases. It’s truly disturbing,” Assistant Chief Frank Vega, the NYPD borough commander, said.

Just this week, 91-year-old man from Oakwood was conned out of $12,000 in a grandson-bail scheme — one of the most common scams in the borough.

The man told police that he received a phone call from an unknown individual pretending to be his grandson. The caller said that $12,000 was needed to bail the grandson out of jail, according to a spokesman for the NYPD.

The victim went to a package-delivery store and sent cash in a parcel.

The D.A.’s office is warning residents of “the four P’s,” signs that can help them identify they could be falling victim of a scam:

They pretend. Scammers often pose as an official contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, IRS, Medicare, or a made-up name that sounds official.
They say there is a problem/prize. Scammers may say you’re in trouble with the government, you owe money, someone in your family had an emergency, or that there is a virus on your computer. Others will lie and say you won money but have to pay a fee to get it.

They apply pressure. Scammers want you to act before you have time to think about it. If you’re on the phone, they will tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.
They ask you to pay in unconventional means. They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company, or by purchasing on a gift card and giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a fake check and tell you to deposit it and then send them money.

The D.A.’s office is warning residents of “the four P’s,” signs that can help them identify they could be falling victim of a scam:

  • They pretend. Scammers often pose as an official contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, IRS, Medicare, or a made-up name that sounds official.
  • They say there is a problem/prize. Scammers may say you’re in trouble with the government, you owe money, someone in your family had an emergency, or that there is a virus on your computer. Others will lie and say you won money but have to pay a fee to get it.
  • They apply pressure. Scammers want you to act before you have time to think about it. If you’re on the phone, they will tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.
  • They ask you to pay in unconventional means. They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company, or by purchasing on a gift card and giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a fake check and tell you to deposit it and then send them money.

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