Greenwich Police warn seniors about scams

Is that Deputy Chief of Police Mark Marino or Derek Zoolander? Dept. Chief Marino was one of many public safety officers, town employees and utility workers who walked the catwalk last week, but for a serious cause as town residents were warned about scams where people could impersonate police officers and others to gain trust. —John Ferris Robben

Is that Deputy Chief of Police Mark Marino or Derek Zoolander? Dept. Chief Marino was one of many public safety officers, town employees and utility workers who walked the catwalk last week, but for a serious cause as town residents were warned about scams where people could impersonate police officers and others to gain trust. —John Ferris Robben

Innercircle’s Bad Boys and Stop! In the Name of Love by the Supremes boomed over the loudspeaker as the models walked — and danced — their way down the runway.

But this wasn’t your typical fashion show, and they weren’t your average models.

It was a uniform fashion show. And the models were none other than members of the Greenwich police and fire departments as well as other emergency personnel and town employees. These “models” weren’t showing off the latest spring fashions. They dressed in full uniform and strutted down the makeshift runway at Town Hall as a crowd of seniors cheered them on not just to entertain but also to educate people on what to look for to know you are dealing with a legitimate first responder.

Because while the atmosphere of the event was light and fun, the message — Don’t Be Scammed — was a serious one.

In recognition of Older Americans Month, the town held the fashion show on May 14 to help seniors learn how to differentiate real town employees from the fakes.

As members from almost every town agency stepped to the front of the room, emcee Fairfield Chief of Police Gary MacNamara explained who they were, what agency or department they were from, what they would be wearing, and why they would show up at your house.

Greenwich Police Detective Mark Solomon said Greenwich’s senior population is heavily targeted and are at high risk for falling victim to people impersonating police officers, firefighters, utility workers and town employees trying to scam them out of money. Det. Solomon explained some common scams that have been circulating around the area, and that not all scams are conducted in person. The phone can be a scam artist’s best friend.

“Never trust an incoming phone call,” he said.

Family member in distress

Det. Solomon offered up an example of one very common scheme.

“The phone will ring, you’ll answer it, and again they’re targeting our senior community, and you’ll hear a young boy or a young girl’s voice on there say Grandma? Grandpa? And you volunteer the name — Susie? Johnnie? Is that you? And then they’ve got you,” he said.

Det. Solomon said the young voice will then go on to say they are away from home, they are in some type of trouble and need money, but not to tell their parents. Then a “police officer” will get on the phone, verify the story and tell the victim where to wire the money.

If the scammer can get the money the first time they will most likely follow up the next day trying to get more.

“This is how ruthless some of these people are,” he explained.

Det. Solomon said if anybody receives that call, they should take down as much information as they can, do not provide any information in return, and then call the police.

What to do

Chief MacNamara detailed what residents should do if a person in a uniform or distinctive outfit comes to the door seeking access to your home.

•Never open the door for someone you do not recognize as legitimate.

•Ask to see identification through a window, such as a badge or picture ID, before opening the door.

•If you are suspicious, go with your instinct and call 911.

While Chief MacNamara focused on what to do if someone comes to your door, Det. Solomon discussed tips on identity theft prevention.

•Never give out personal information over the phone or through e-mail

•Keep a shredder in your house and shred mail that deals with personal information.

•Don’t store personal information in obvious places like a home office or kitchen drawers near the mail.

•Update the virus protection on your computer.

•Monitor your online and bank accounts.

“If you become a victim of identity theft, shut down the account that’s been affected; secondly you need to report it to the three major credit bureaus and, third, you want to report it to the Greenwich police department,” Det. Solomon said. “We aggressively investigate these cases and were here to ensure that hopefully someone is arrested for that crime.”

The town said it held this event as part of its ongoing commitment to its senior residents.

“It’s important that we recognize our older Americans and the contributions they’ve made to our society,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said. “Particularly in this town, a town of 62,000 plus people, we depend on the volunteer efforts of our citizenry and many of those volunteering are our older Americans.”

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