Massive Make-a-Wish Phone Scam Stealing Millions From American Elderly

From our friends at ScamNot.org

(This is from the Federal Citizen Information Center and is an article done by 20/20)

A massive phone scam exploiting the good name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation has siphoned more than $20 million from unsuspecting Americans and has been escalating in recent months. Authorities say it is fast becoming one of the ugliest telemarketing schemes to target the elderly in years.

Swindlers pretending to be calling from such government agencies as the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission have put a new twist on an old con. They are hiding offshore, thousands of miles away, but they’re using internet phone technology to disguise their location. Victims see a 202 area code on their phones when the calls come in, and dial seemingly authentic U.S. phone numbers to call the scammers back. “Unlike the standard telemarketing frauds . these weren’t people hiding behind a phone number you couldn’t call — a voice you couldn’t recreate. These were people who left telephone numbers and would talk to you,” said the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who became alarmed when they started hearing from multiple victims a week about the fraudulent calls.

One team of con artists spoke with a senior citizen who fell for their scam, the owner of a Virginia modeling studio. They called her almost every day for more than a month. Eventually, they had persuaded her to send more than $300,000 through Western Union and Moneygram in what she thought were luxury taxes and insurance fees on the $1.1 million prize they promised would be arriving any day.

“She said, we’ve been trying to reach you.’ Very, very warm. Very kind. ‘There is money here for you . it is sitting here on my desk. And I am just determined this money is yours. And I just want to help you get it,'” victim recalled.

During a six-month investigation, ABC News obtained never-before published recordings of the phone calls and tracked down two fugitives who have been hiding in Costa Rica. The two men have been indicted in the scheme but avoided extradition because they also held Costa Rican citizenship.

The scammers allegedly set up dozens of boiler rooms so scammers could call into U.S. homes claiming to be awarding sweepstakes winnings from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The scammers made their money by convincing the victims to pay “luxury taxes” or “insurance” in advance on winnings they will never receive.

Boiler Room Raid

Federal prosecutors have alleged that the scammers reaped millions installing internet phone lines in the illegal call centers.

Federal officials thought they had extinguished the scam in 2006 when they conducted a dramatic raid on 16 boiler rooms in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose.

But U.S. authorities have marveled at the scale of the scam that has regenerated – believed to be the product of the Costa Rican citizens who remained free after the 2006 raid. And they say the potency of the swindle remains breathtaking. One early victim in Florida wired more than $800,000 to Costa Rica on the promise of a million-dollar sweepstakes check that would never arrive.

But among those most alarmed have been the officials who lead the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which relies on the trust of the public for its funding. Earlier this year, the non profit organization posted a fraud alert on its website.

“These people around hiding offshore — willingly destroying people’s lives by taking every nickel they can suck out of them. And they’re using the good name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to do it.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have set up a hotline for victims to call to report having been ripped off. It is 1-866-DHS-2ICE. The Federal Trade Commission has posted information about the scams and advice for victims on two special web pages here and here and has also been compiling a list of complaints for law enforcement agencies to pursue.

To read the complete story and hear the taped recordings click here

Scam Targeted Holocaust Survivors’ Fund

The title of this story sucked me in . . . Scam Targeted Holocaust Survivors’ Fund
I found this on the FBI site.  Here is the story in full.

For nearly six decades, a not-for-profit corporation known as The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany—or the Claims Conference—has been overseeing German government funds that assist Holocaust survivors.
So you can imagine our surprise and concern when we uncovered evidence that it had been the victim of fraud.
This afternoon at a New York City press conference, we announced that six corrupt Claims Conference employees in its Manhattan office—along with 11 other conspirators—have been charged in a decade-long scheme to defraud the organization and legitimate Holocaust victims out of more than $42 million.
The Claims Conference supervises several funds and processes thousands of applications a year. The two funds allegedly targeted for fraud were:

  • The Article 2 Fund, which makes monthly payments of $411 to survivors of Nazi persecution who make less than $16,000 a year and who either lived in hiding or a Jewish ghetto for 18 months or were incarcerated for at least six months in a concentration or forced labor camp; and
  • The Hardship Fund, which makes a one-time payment of approximately $3,600 to survivors forced to evacuate their hometowns and become refugees.

Applications by persons living in the U.S. are made to the Claims Conference’s office in Manhattan, usually by mail. The applicants provide identification documents, along with information about their family and experiences escaping Nazi persecution. Caseworkers with the Claims Conference verify an applicant’s history, often by checking external databases and archives, and sometimes through a personal interview. If approved for payment, a check is mailed to the applicant or electronically deposited into a bank account.

Processing fingerprints during this morning’s arrests.

Claims Conference officials became suspicious of possible fraudulent activity within their organization in December 2009 and immediately contacted law enforcement. Our New York office began an investigation, with the full cooperation of the Claims Conference.
According to the criminal complaint filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, here’s how the scheme generally worked:

  • Driven by crooked Claims Conference employees, former employees and other conspirators would recruit people—some unwitting—who weren’t eligible for the program (mostly individuals of the Jewish faith in the Russian immigrant community) to take part in the fraud.
  • To make it appear that applicants were eligible, identification documents were often altered (for example, a birth date was changed to make it appear that applicants were born during or before World War II) and fake Nazi persecution stories were often made up.
  • Fraudulent applications were reviewed and approved by corrupt Claims Conference employees.
  • Once the applicants received their money, they kept a portion but were instructed to pay certain “fees” using the rest—which of course ended up in the pockets of the conspirators. These “fees” were usually paid in the form of cash or money order.

Among those charged in the scheme are the former director of the Article 2 and Hardship Funds, other past and present Claims Conference employees, two law firm employees, a notary/document forger, and several other middlemen.
New York Assistant Director in Charge Janice Fedarcyk said that the victims of this scheme were “those who had already suffered at the hands of Nazi persecution only to have their experiences exploited again—this brazen miscarriage of the compensation program is, in its own way, a kind of crime against humanity.”

Love Fraud ~ Raising Awareness

I wanted to share something from the Love Fraud blog with all of you . . .

I believe that raising awareness of sociopaths is one of the best things we can do to improve our world. Sociopaths are probably responsible for most of the ills in our society: crime, violence, neglect, abuse. Sociopaths with political power start wars. Sociopaths with economic power exploit workers, defile the environment, ruin companies and defraud customers and shareholders. Sociopathic parents cause untold pain for their children. Sociopaths who portray themselves as religious leaders cause incredible spiritual damage. The ways in which they wreak havoc appear to be limitless.

I agree with Donna, of LoveFraud.com

She is asking for people to take things to the next level, and she outlines her ideas and goals in a recent blog post.  Just like her, we at ScamVictimsUnited.com are looking to make a change.  We have a petition where we are asking law makers to do the right thing and change the laws to protect consumers.

Internet Dating

Dating is hard . . . now add the internet to that and you can really complicate things. It is much easier for people to not be totally honest about who they are when they are just contacting you over the internet.

This is why you need to be very careful as to who you give your heart to, especially when it comes to the internet.

Here are a couple of sites that talk more about Internet Dating and Romance Scams.
http://alanprince.wordpress.com/
http://datescam.co.uk/frauduk/

Take this quiz!

Check out your scam IQ with this quiz from the United States Postal Inspectors site at http://www.deliveringtrust.com/index.php

You can also learn more about common scams, and look at the top 10 ways to prevent fraud.

BP scam email

With every disaster, there is a new scam email to go along with it.  I was surprised when I did not see one just after the big BP oil spill, but I finally had the email show up in my inbox.  Here it is.

 

RE: BP Oil Spill Compensational Fund Promotions

British Petrochemical (BP) p.l.c.
International Headquarters
1 St James’s Square
London, SW1Y 4PD
UK

Reference Number: 25512560/30

BP is a global group of energy and petrochemical companies. With 104,000 employees in more than 110 countries, we play a key role in helping to meet the world’s growing demand for energy in economically, environmentally and socially responsible ways. You must have seen and read in the media about the devastating oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, we like to state emphatically, that BP is doing everything we can to make things right. We feel a great burden and responsibility for the oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, Our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people have formed the basis of our General Business Principles for 30 years and remain as important as ever. We are convinced that our short- and long-term business success depends on finding environmentally and socially responsible ways to help meet the world’s future energy needs.

To show our love and regard for the inhabitants of this beautiful word that gives us the mineral resources in which our organization derives its great financial capital base, the Department of International Awareness/Promotions of BP is giving away £450,000.00 GBP as a commiserative compensational fund to the lucky winner in or promotional exercise. In line with that, we in the Department of International Awareness/Promotions wish to congratulate you on the selection of your email id from our computerized balloting system as the lucky winner in our Oil Spill Compensational Fund Promotions.

This makes you the proud winner of cash prize of £450,000.00 GBPs (Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Great British Pounds). In order to redeem your prize, send the below listed details to the given email address: bp_p.l.c@w.cn

1.) Full Name:
2.) Current Address:
3.) Country:
4.) Age:
5.) Sex:
6.) Occupation:
7.) Phone Number:
8.) Reference Number: 25512560/30

Your email will be attended to by Mr. David Anderson, who is Head of International Awareness/Promotions Department in our London Head Office. Once again you are reminded to send the requested details to us for acknowledgment, through the given email address: bp_p.l.c@w.cn or just simply click reply to and proceed in the sending of the above requested details.

Once Again Congratulations!!

London Head Office
British Petrochemical (BP) p.l.c.
Summed up by two words ‘beyond petroleum’

Foreclosure Rap

I found this on another blog and had to share it with all of you.