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May 10, 2019 3:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Police Host Scammer Prevention Workshop In Bridgehampton On Friday

Southampton Town Police Sgt. Lisa Costa leads the scammer prevention workshop at the Bridgehampton Community Center on Friday. VALERIE GORDON
May 14, 2019 1:06 PM

Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa estimates that New York residents will be scammed out of approximately $13 million this year—“and Southampton will have its equal share of that,” she said.

That’s why Det. Sgt. Costa and her colleague, Lieutenant James Kiernan, are hosting several scammer prevention workshops at senior centers across Southampton Town to offer tips for seniors.

Det. Sgt. Costa explained that scammers are typically targeting individuals over the age of 60, pointing to two specific examples in Southampton earlier this year.

In March, Thomas A. Figueroa-Aquino, 25, of Brooklyn was arrested by Southampton Town Police for “preying” on elderly Hampton Bays residents. Det. Sgt. Costa said that he was involved in a $50,000 network scam that contacted victims by telephone, demanding money to bail their family members out of jail—when, in truth, their family members were not jailed.

In December, a Shinnecock Hills couple was accused of scamming elderly individuals out of nearly $1 million combined. John and Mara Ficarra owned, operated and held senior management positions under an umbrella company, Remington Entities, which promised to publish biographies of older people nationwide for a fee.

“That was right in our backyard,” Sgt. Costa said.

In these situations, Lt. Kiernan stressed that it’s important for potential victims to trust their instincts: “If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true,” he said.

Det. Sgt. Costa told seniors at the Bridgehampton Community Center on Friday to be vigilant, verify and go back to the source. For example, she said, if PSEG Long Island calls about an overdue bill, hang up and call the utility directly.

Pat LaFemina of Sag Harbor said that she always requests something in writing. “I will not give money over the phone,” she said.

Sag Harbor resident Melanie Buttonow took it one step further, adding that she often asks questions, such as, “If you’re my granddaughter, what’s my dog’s name?”

She laughed noting that she even got a call from her grandson once. “I don’t have a grandson!” she said.

Additionally, Det. Sgt. Costa explained that seniors should check their credit scores regularly for unauthorized accounts or spendings.

As well, she stressed that more often than not, if someone requests money through a method like a money order, it’s a scam. “If you can’t legitimately pay, the answer is no,” she said.

Det. Sgt. Costa said that the Southampton Town Police are available 24/7 at 631-728-5000 or 631-728-3400 to address concerns regarding possible scam attempts.

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