In today’s world, scamming has become big business. The practice has become so sophisticated that it has reached epidemic proportions and in many cases is nearly impossible to prosecute. It has been called “the crime of the 21stcentury.” No one is immune, but the older adult population is a particularly vulnerable target. Scammers assume that older people are sitting on big bank accounts, may be lonely, and therefore are easy targets.
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A recent panel discussion sponsored by the Larimer County Agency on Aging and moderated by Seniors Blue Book CEO and publisher Oliver Hersch was presented as part of an ongoing series of educational seminars for seniors. Panelists were attorney Andrew Stone, financial advisor Anthony Cisneros, Barbara Bennett, director of volunteers for the Larimer County Sheriff’s office and Tina Barker, Adult Protection Manager from Larimer County Adult Protective Services.
Scams come in many forms from door-to-door solicitors to telephone and Internet scams. The panel shared their own experiences and expertise and fielded lots of questions from the audience at the Senior Center. The best information comes from audience questions, Hersch said. The following advice emerged.
Phone scams. Never give out any personal information. Remember that the US Treasury and IRS never make phone contacts. Never share any information you may be asked for concerning the 2020 Census. Watch out for scams related to Publishers Clearing House, Facebook and Craig’s List. Beware of someone with a foreign accent or poor grammar—clues that the call is probably not legitimate. The very best advice is to hang up the phone when a number is not familiar. A legitimate caller always has the option to call and leave you a message. Consider signing up to be placed on a no-call list such as NOMOROBO.
Internet scams. Beware of addresses that look legitimate but may have a strange little mark such as a hyphen or comma that has been used by scammers to imitate a legitimate address. Never click on a link. You can hover your mouse over an address without clicking on it to get the source of the communication.
Change passwords frequently, make sure they are strong and don’t store them on your computer.
Door-to door solicitors. If it is a neighbor raising funds for their school or scout troop, you are safe, but otherwise, beware. Never give funds to a stranger, instead ask questions and explain that you do not donate to door-to-door solicitors.
Ninety percent of elder abuse involves family members from adult children to grandchildren and other relatives. Caregivers can also be a problem and should be carefully vetted. Consider carefully before adding a signer to your bank account.
Don’t fail to report abuse because of feeling embarrassed or ashamed. There is help out there.
For more information about the most prevalent scams, check out the National Council on Aging at ncoa.org. or google scams.