Gov. McMaster signs bill into law protecting seniors, vulnerable adults from scammers

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill into law to protect seniors and vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. This comes after state officials have seen a pattern of of scams over the past year aimed at vulnerable adults.

This new bill will give financial institutions like banks, credit unions and other financial service companies the authority to put a hold on or decline a transaction they think might be suspicious. Officials said the bill is important because it’s more common for elderly people to get scammed.

Officials at the Horry County Police Department said they’ve seen scammers posing as a bondsman from an attorney’s office. During this scam, they go out to the victim’s house, requesting they give them a check for thousands of dollars. Police said they’ve seen even more of these cases over the past 6 months.

“Create that sense of urgency, use that against the victim in hopes that they are just going to want to help. By the time they realize and contact their relatives and say hey what is going on with little Jimmy or whatever, that money is already gone,” Sergeant Van Sissell said.

If these transactions are suspected of being fraud, they will be reported to the department of social services, law enforcement and to the securities division of the office of the attorney general.

They said scammers commonly take advantage of the elderly population. Other common scams happening in the county include the ‘family emergency scam.’

Scammers may pose as relatives, friends or attorneys representing a family member calling or sending messages to urge you to wire money immediately. They’ll say they need help with an emergency like getting out of jail, been involved in a car accident, paying a hospital bill, court cost or needing to leave a foreign country.

They also tend to use tricks to impersonate your loved ones and play on your emotions impersonating grandchildren in distress to make grandparents send money. This scam is known as the ‘grandparent scam.’

Scammers will also ask you to get gift cards from big box stores. They will ask you to put a certain dollar amount in it and call back the scammer with the numbers on the back of the card.

“Fraudsters will then take these numbers, from any laptop from anywhere in the world and access these numbers and these gift cards and drain the money and the money is gone,” Sissell said.

Police said if you do get a call, resist the urge to act immediately no matter how dramatic the story is and call a phone number for your family member or a friend you can trust. Also, make sure to verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger could not possibly answer. You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission, your local law enforcement agency or the state attorney general.

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