Because of Covid 19 and the “Stay at Home” orders, more of us are at home than ever before. This means we are available to answer the phone from more SCAM ARTISTS. A very clever credit card scam is now hitting the elderly and our CV neighbors should be aware of it. I suspect I could have fallen for it if not forewarned “Beware of STRANGERS bearing gifts” per Shakespeare's missive.

The scam goes like this....a victim gets a phone call from someone saying that he was from some outfit called: "Express Couriers." (The name could be any courier company). The courier asks if the victim was going to be home in an hour because there was a package for the victim that required a signature. The caller said that the delivery would arrive at the victim’s home in roughly an hour.

As promised, about an hour later, a uniformed delivery man turned up with a beautiful basket of flowers and a bottle of wine. The victim was very surprised since there was no special occasion or holiday, and she certainly didn't expect anything like it. The victim was intrigued and asked who the sender was. The courier replied, "I don't know, I'm only delivering the package."

I did something similar when I was a young law clerk and the firm was trying to serve the head of the John Birch Society. No one had been able to serve him in the Pasadena area. I said I would do it. I put the court papers in a manila envelope and prepared a label with an incorrect address, similar to the one to which I was going to drive. I was about 21 and didn’t look like a threat as I was on my way to the USC Law Library.

I knocked on the door and a male answered, asking who was it? I said my name is not important, but this envelope was delivered by accident to my grandmothers address a block or so away. I told him everyone knew his name and address because he was a VIP. She asked me to give it to you in person and not leave on the porch.

He asked what is it about, as he cracked the screen open. I said I don’t know, I’ll open it for you. When I pulled out the blue-backed papers, used for court documents at the time, he tried to close the screen door. However, I threw it inside and said you have been served!

In the above scam, a card was apparently being sent separately... (the card has never arrived!). There was also a consignment note with the gift. The courier then went on to explain that because the gift contained alcohol, there was a small "delivery/ verification charge". The charge was to provide proof that the courier had actually delivered the package to an adult (of legal drinking age), and not just left it on the doorstep where it could be stolen or taken by anyone, especially a minor.

I think you will agree that this sounded logical, and the victim offered to pay him cash. The courier then said that the delivery company required payment to be by credit or debit card only. It was explained that then everything is properly accounted for, and this would help in keeping a legal record of the transaction.

The courier added that couriers don't carry cash to avoid a loss or be likely targets for robbery. The victim then pulled out a credit card, and 'John,' the "delivery man," asked him to swipe the card on a small mobile card machine with a small screen and keypad. The victim was asked to enter his PIN number and a receipt was printed out. He was given a copy of the transaction. The guy said everything was in order, and wished the victims a good day.

To their horrible surprise, in the next few days, $8,000 had been charged/withdrawn, from their credit/debit account at various ATM machines. Apparently the "mobile credit card machine," which the deliveryman carried now had all the info necessary to create a "dummy" card with all their card details, including the PIN number.

When they learned about the illegal transactions on their card, they immediately notified the bank which issued them a new card, and their credit/debit account was closed. They contacted the Police, where it was confirmed that it was definitely a scam because several households had been similarly hit.

WARNING: Be wary of accepting any "surprise gift or package," which you neither expected nor personally ordered, especially if it involves any kind of payment as a condition of receiving the gift or package. Also, never accept anything if you do not personally know or there is no proper identification as to the sender. Above all, the only time you should give out any personal credit/debit card information is when you yourself initiated the purchase or transaction!

You should also be aware that the IRS does not call. If you get a call from them HANG UP. It is a scam. In addition, a public warning has been issued about phony contact tracers who pretend they are gathering information about COVID-19 cases and ask for money and sensitive information.

Criminals involved in the Contact Tracing Scam request Social Security numbers, financial information, money, immigration status, and other sensitive information not required for authentic contact tracing, according to the District Attorney's Office. Criminals involved in the Contact Tracing Scam often request your Social Security numbers, financial information, money, immigration status, and other sensitive information, not required for authentic contact tracing.

Victims have been contacted through telephone calls, text messages, and email. If this happens to you, contact your local health department to verify if contacts are valid.

PLEASE Pass this on, it may just prevent someone else from being swindled.