Nation/World

Crook Targets Elderly Using Credit Card Ploy

A credit-card con artist may be targeting the elderly in this area, a Spokane-based consumer reporting company warns.

Nick Warrick, president of Credit Bureau Services, reports the swindle revolves around a non-existent credit problem.

The confidence game follows a pattern that has cropped up other places around the country.

Warrick said an older woman he has known for many years notified him after she received a call. She happens to have a background in business and finance, so she didn’t fall for the deception.

“This is the first contact I am aware of locally,” Warrick said.

“But it’s probably the tip of the iceberg. And whoever is perpetrating this scam,” says Warrick, “is picking on the elderly in particular.”

Here’s how it works:

The phone rings and you answer it. The caller says he has a copy of your credit report, and he’s really sorry, but you have a credit problem.

“That’s the story,” says Warrick, “whether you’ve ever in your life had a credit problem or not.”

“Right away people get alarmed,” says the credit industry veteran, “since most people do pay their bills, and they don’t want a black mark against them.

“Often,” says the Warrick, “the first reaction is, ‘Oh, my gosh - there’s a problem with my credit? And right away they have been disarmed.

“They assume the caller is legitimate, and he makes it clear he is just there to help them. But the caller says that before he can discuss specific items in the credit report, he must make sure he is talking to the right party.”

First, he asks for the person’s Social Security number. Yup, that checks.

Then he needs the identification numbers of a couple of credit cards to compare to the credit information he has right there in front of him.

Oh, oh - sure enough, there are problems. Too bad. Well, he’ll get back in touch as soon as possible.

By the time the invoices start arriving for charges the con artist makes against the card numbers, the culprit has already left town.

Merchants take the financial hit. But consumers suffer emotional and psychological stress and strain.

Although the elderly are the most vulnerable, others are not immune.

“All should be extremely wary of anyone asking for their identification on the phone,” advises the credit executive. “Representatives of legitimate companies will give you their phone number so you can call back and confirm they are genuine.”

How soon they forget.

D. Michael Jones lost his job as president of the largest home-based financial services combine in Spokane history seven years ago when $2-billionplus Old National Bancorp sold out.

Neither Jones nor his boss, Old National’s chairman, Dave Clack, joined the new owner, U.S. Bancorp of Portland. Clack turned his attention to managing the family’s business affairs in Spokane.

Jones went to work for West One as the No. 2 man in Boise, where he remains president. But U.S. Bank did take on board a raft full of Old National’s other top talent, including Phyllis Campbell, now president of U.S. Bank of Washington, based in Seattle.

And while it won’t be Jones, the 30th largest bank-holding company in the nation will have a local banker at its helm. West One Chairman Dan Nelson, who was born and reared and entered banking in Spokane, will stay as president of the new combine.

Under terms of the merger, in three years, Nelson will become chief executive officer of the $30-billion institution. Meantime, when news of the betrothal broke last week, there was no mention of Jones among the wedding party. A call seemed in order.

“Mike Jones?” puzzled a youthful banker who answered the phone. “Is he a loan officer or what?”

Finally, I got the bank’s corporate communications vice president, Linda Blount, who informed me that President Jones was unavailable for the interim. She said a decision on whether the ex-Spokane banker will play a leading role with the largest Northwest-based financial institution will be made in the next two or three months.

xxxx

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review



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