UPDATE | How to avoid being scammed out of your money

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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 10/11/19 @ 5:42 p.m.
Police across West Virginia have gotten used to seeing people trying to steal money from the elderly. They said it's another impact from the drug epidemic.

Amanda Allen, 25, of Clendenin, is charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person, obtaining goods by false pretenses, and computer fraud. (Source: SCRJ)

"A majority of the times when they are being stolen from, that money is going towards someone's drug habit," West Virginia State Police First Sgt. Sean Wolfe said. "That's what happened in this case and what we see in a majority of the cases."

Wolfe said some elderly people have hundreds of thousands of dollars taken out of their bank accounts, and it is often taken my family members who see them as vulnerable.

"Shields, that would usually be up if a stranger came up to you looking for your money. Those aren't up because this is a family member you love," Wolfe said. "You don't expect them to rip you off, but they are out there doing it."

"It's always some sort of story to make the victim feel sorry for them and the victim say, 'let me try to help you,' " Wolfe said. "We've got a great elderly community, and they are just great open and caring people, just not seeing it."

Bank employees and computer systems often notice red flags, Wolfe said. These are reported to police, but the damage is often already done.

"You leave your credit card out or access to your account on a computer, that is something that someone could easily access and get into your account and use that money," Wolfe said.

A woman from Kanawha County is facing criminal charges for allegedly lying to family members about having cancer to scam money out of them.

Amanda Allen, 25, of Clendenin, is charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person, obtaining goods by false pretenses, and computer fraud.

West Virginia State Police troopers say Allen scammed two victims -- her 67-year-old father and her 82-year-old grandmother.

This fraudulent scheme allegedly took place over a six month time span. Between Jan. 3 and July 3 of 2019, troopers say Allen scammed the victims out of about $24,000, digging into both their checking and savings accounts.

Bank employees noticed multiple suspicious cash withdrawals within a short amount of time. They saw a red flag for fraud, and reported the activity to law enforcement.

Investigators later determined Allen was withdrawing money through ATM transactions, including check cash withdrawals. She even made six withdrawals in one day, according to State Police. In total, she allegedly made 163 transactions within those six months.

"Some of the suspect checks noted 'pills' and 'pills cancer' on the memo portion of the checks written to the suspect defendant," the criminal complaint states. "The defendant did make false representations/claims to the victims that she was suffering from cancer and in need of medications and treatment for the cancer."

Troopers say the victims believed Allen's story and "nearly emptied their bank accounts" to help her afford medication and treatment.

However, investigators say Allen does not have cancer at all and was not using the money for cancer-related expenses.

"Victims and witnesses believe the defendant was using the proceeds to fund her drug addiction," the criminal complaint states.

According to investigators, Allen later admitted to her lie, saying things like, "I'm sorry," "I'm embarrassed," and "I know I was wrong." Law enforcement also tracked down physical evidence including surveillance footage and banking documents that support the allegations.

Allen is in the South Central Regional Jail on a $10,000 (or 10 percent cash) bail.