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Island woman’s life savings looted in a scam: Police chief warns residents to be wary of fraud

Police Chief Jim Read addressed the Town Board this week about the number of online and phone frauds being perpetuated against Islanders, and in particular how one Island woman had her life savings stolen in a scam.

No names were mentioned, but a GoFundMe page, posted by Peggy DiSunno, is up and running for her friend Heather Lee, the Island’s school bus driver, asking for donations since she lost her life savings, the page says, in a scam. The address of the page is gofundme.com/f/help-heather-heal-from-a-huge-scam.

Chief Read said he would contact the local media to discuss frauds generally that are circulating and, specifically, presenting the Islander who will provide “first-hand experience” of how she lost everything.

Chief Read said his department has been helping the victim of the devastating loss, noting that it’s always difficult to recover money that has been stolen. The Shelter Island Lions Club is involved in helping her; other groups are coming aboard offering assistance.

“If you have to give money to get money, it’s a fraud,” Chief Read said, offering advice to the public. “If you have any questions, stop, and contact the Police Department, or someone close to you that you trust.”

His department is ready to assist anyone with questions, Chief Read repeated. The criminals who contact unsuspecting people are clever, and those who are being victimized “sometimes can’t see the light at the end the tunnel,” the chief said, and “go deeper and deeper into the fraud.”

The Reporter will have more on the ongoing fight against phone and internet scams that are targeting Islanders.

According to statistics gathered by CNBC, more than 59 million Americans reported losing money from phone scams over the past 12 months, which is up from 56 million in 2020. The average loss this year is $502, compared to $351 in 2020, CNBC reported.

The total loss Americans suffered from phone and digital fraud was a stunning $29.8 million over the past 12 months.