In the phone book? Scam could target you

FRESNO, Calif.

The Better Business Bureau warns that holiday season is also scam season, and right now, a phone scam is targeting Hispanic families in the Valley.

The crime starts with humble beginnings, and a low tech search.

"[It's as simple as going through the phone book and looking down and finding a Hispanic name and then start calling," said Blair Looney of the Better Business Bureau.

Martinezes, Morenos, and Deleons are all getting cold calls from scam artists and in many cases, the crooks convince their targets to send hundreds of dollars by wire.

Consuelo Rodriguez was at her mother's house when one of the calls came.

"They pretty much told her it was her nephew and they started following along with everything my mom was saying," Rodriguez said.

The hour-long phone call included a lot of catching up with an out of touch relative. But Rodriguez says she noticed the information seemed to be on a one-way street from her mother to the caller. And then came the pitch for fast money.

"They said they were stranded in Las Vegas and they needed money," Rodriguez said. "They needed my mom's check information because they needed money."

Rodriguez stopped her mother from giving away any money, but she knows a neighbor who lost $800 in a similar scam.

The Better Business Bureau says the scam may start low tech, but the crooks take it up a notch. Many times, they'll try to earn trust over a few calls before asking for money, all the while gathering details about the strangers they called.

"That's how sophisticated they've become because they've gained your confidence utilizing the database they've developed to talk to people," Looney said.

The BBB has an arrangement with Western Union to get notification when someone receives a lot of wire transactions. But neither the BBB nor police have gotten enough information to track the scammers.

Rodriguez says the best way to stop the scam is to just talk about it.

"My mom called everybody that day, like all my aunts, my uncles," Rodriguez said. "I guess just word of mouth."

But investigators say many victims are too embarrassed to even come forward.

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