EL­DER CARE

SURE­FIRE SCAM-PRE­VEN­TION TIPS FOR SE­NIORS

Home Defender - - Contents - By Tor­rey Kim

The term el­der care takes on a whole new mean­ing when look­ing at crime pre­ven­tion tips for the el­derly.

Some scam­mers spe­cial­ize in par­tic­u­lar fields, such as de­ceiv­ing col­lege stu­dents, hus­tling tourists or de­fraud­ing home­own­ers. But one very in­sid­i­ous type of crime has taken hold across the coun­try over the past decade, and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials are striv­ing to beat back the scourge—scam­mers who tar­get the el­derly.

Se­nior cit­i­zens are likely to have sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings socked away for re­tire­ment, of­ten own their homes,

and may not have some­one nearby to coun­sel them on whom to trust. That com­bi­na­tion is ripe for de­cep­tion—but se­niors don’t have to be­come vic­tims. Con­sider the fol­low­ing tips to en­sure that you, or the se­nior cit­i­zens who are dear to your heart, don’t fall prey to a scam­mer.

USE CAU­TION ON THE PHONE

Although hustlers may not make their way into a se­nior’s home di­rectly, they do fre­quently at­tempt to gain ac­cess to their vic­tims via the phone, says Amy Sailors, crime pre­ven­tion of­fi­cer with the Mesa, Ari­zona, Po­lice De­part­ment. She points to the fol­low­ing com­mon phone scams di­rected at the older pop­u­la­tion: • PRIZE NO­TI­FI­CA­TION SCAMS

The caller states that the se­nior won the lot­tery or sweep­stakes but needs to pay a fee be­fore he/ she can col­lect the win­nings.

• SO­CIAL SE­CU­RITY SCAMS

A call from some­one who claims to be from the So­cial Se­cu­rity of­fice and asks the se­nior to ver­ify his or her So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber.

• GRAND­PAR­ENT SCAM

Some­one calls and acts like a fam­ily mem­ber in dis­tress who needs money to get out of trou­ble.

• IRS SCAM

The caller claims to be from the IRS, telling the se­nior that he/she owes money that must be paid or the se­nior will be ar­rested.

• CHAR­ITY DO­NA­TION AP­PEAL Some­one calls re­quest­ing money for a char­ity, which they at­tempt to col­lect via credit card pay­ment.

“We ad­vise peo­ple to sign up for caller ID on their phones so they can see where the call is orig­i­nat­ing from,” Sailors says.

How­ever, even the dig­i­tal caller ID read­out can be ma­nip­u­lated by ma­chines pro­grammed to dis­play a par­tic­u­lar name or num­ber in­stead of a gen­uine one, she says.

“MOST OF THE TIME, THE SCAM ARTIST TRIES TO RUSH THE VIC­TIM INTO MAK­ING A HUR­RIED DE­CI­SION …” —AMY SAILORS, CRIME PRE­VEN­TION OF­FI­CER WITH THE MESA, ARI­ZONA, PO­LICE DE­PART­MENT

“Most of the time, the scam artist tries to rush the vic­tim into mak­ing a hur­ried de­ci­sion, so we rec­om­mend if they are con­fused or don’t know who they are talk­ing to, take a num­ber and say they need to dis­cuss with a fam­ily mem­ber or just hang up the phone—you are not ob­li­gated to talk to them,” Sailors says.

In ad­di­tion, Sailors re­minds se­niors to never give out personal information, such as date of birth, So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber or home ad­dress, as well as to never re­veal credit card, debit card or bank ac­count num­bers.

“No le­git­i­mate busi­ness would be re­quest­ing that over the phone,” she adds.

IF YOU'VE BEEN TAR­GETED

Un­for­tu­nately, some se­niors don’t re­al­ize they’ve been vic­tim­ized un­til it’s too late. Of­ten, they’ll hang up the phone and im­me­di­ately ac­cept the fact that some­thing didn’t feel right. In other cases, they may not no­tice un­til money leaves their bank ac­count or the bank calls to ver­ify a sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tion. No mat­ter how the scam is dis­cov­ered, how­ever, it should be re­ported to the au­thor­i­ties.

“Con­tact the lo­cal po­lice de­part­ment and file a re­port, so there is a record of the in­ci­dent,” Sailors ad­vises.

If the se­nior lost money, they should re­port it to the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, she adds. In ad­di­tion, know that scam­mers tend to al­ways ring twice—or more. “Be aware that once they have been vic­tim­ized by a scam, it is pos­si­ble to be vic­tim­ized a sec­ond time,” she says, or even more fre­quently.

There­fore, never let your guard down fol­low­ing a scam, and re­main vig­i­lant to avoid an­other in­ci­dent.

OF­FERS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

The phone isn’t the only means that scam­mers use to in­fil­trate the lives of se­niors, but it is the most com­mon way. How­ever, se­niors should also be equally vig­i­lant when con­tacted via email, Face­book, mail or in per­son. And when deal­ing with strangers, you should al­ways be sus­pi­cious of un­usual re­quests.

“Our best ad­vice to any age group of cit­i­zens is, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is,’” Sailors said.

“BE AWARE THAT ONCE THEY HAVE BEEN VIC­TIM­IZED BY A SCAM, IT IS POS­SI­BLE TO BE VIC­TIM­IZED A SEC­OND TIME.”

— SAILORS

Sales­men may come to the door and say that the roof re­quires re­pairs or that there are bugs that need to be ex­ter­mi­nated. Never give these peo­ple money or personal information up front.

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