Local officers warn seniors of scams
Perpetrators are bilking millions from an entire generation of Americans – those in their 60s, 70s and 80s and beyond – through every means of scams, fraud and exploitation possible, and the only means of halting this crime wave is through increased awareness and education.
So said three local police officers at Tuesday's public safety forum, held before 50 residents at the William Penn Auditorium at the Kendal-Crosslands community in Kennett Square. Sponsored by Kendal-Crosslands and the Kennett Library and moderated by the Hon. Judge Daniel Maisano, the second Public Safety Forum discussed the many crimes that target senior citizens, such as phone scams, identity theft and ways that seniors can protect themselves. The forum also included Kennett Square Police Lieutenant William Holdsworth, Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt and Pa. State Police Lieutenant Richard D'Ambrosio.
“As you may know, seniors are the most likely targets of fraud, because many seniors have nest eggs, which makes them easy targets, with the financial means to fund predators' scams,” Maisano said. “Because seniors generally grew up in the 30s, 40s and 50s, when times were simpler and kinder, they tend to be more polite and trusting than our younger generations. Predators know this about seniors, and target them for exploitation. Therefore, knowledge is power.”
Working from a per-prepared set of questions, the panel addressed a series of concerns that worry seniors, with a particular emphasis on common scams
In his opening remarks, Nolt identified ten ways that seniors are currently being ripped off by predators. They are IRS impersonation callers; a “sweepstakes” scam, claiming that the senior is the recipient has to pay a small fee in order to obtain their winnings; unsolicited and unwanted phone calls, made to land-line and cellular phones, in order to sell a product; “computer” scams, from callers claiming that that are from a software company and have detected a virus in the senior's computer, in search of private information; an “identity theft” scam; a “Grandparents” scam, when a supposed “family” member calls, demanding money to help pay for an attorney or to help them out of a bind; the presence of a financial abuser, usually an actual member of the family, who exploit seniors for money; a “governmental grant” scam, when phone predators identify themselves as a member of a non-profit organization, seeking grant processing fees before a grant is delivered; a “romance” scam, when a personal relationship is pursuit, in order to play upon the senior's emotions in order to extract money from them; and a “home improvement” scam, from callers seeking down payment for a home project.
Holdsworth, whose department recently dealt with a computer scam, told the audience that everyone is susceptible to becoming a victim of these types of crimes.
“It's just through e-mail clicks and links,” he said. “These people are incredible with their talents, in terms of how they infiltrate your computer systems. Some of the e-mail-related scams look so real that 99.9 percent of the public would not realize that these are fraudulent sites.”
A large number of these perpetrators are based in India and in countries in the African continent, D'Ambrosio said, and described a incident that recently happened to him.
“On one of my personal e-mail accounts, I got an e-mail from someone in an African nation,” he said. “They said they had access to hundreds of millions of dollars that they found, and they're looking to get rid of it. Anything like that is going to be a scam. No one is going to be giving you something for free.
“[These perpetrators] will make 500 phone calls or e-mails, and it only takes one person for it to be worth it to them. They keep trying and trying, until they hit on somebody.”
Nolt said that often, third-party vendors obtain an individual's private information through transactions, such a a car purchase, an account at a store or a real estate transaction. In turn, they sell the data down the line, to third-party vendors and subsequently, to scammers.
Seniors are receiving calls from individuals claiming that they are from the IRS, who are telling seniors that unless they pay additional fees to the IRS, that a federal agent will come to their home and arrest them. It's just another scam, D'Ambrosio said.
“The IRS will never attempt to get a hold of you through a telephone call or through e-mail,” he said. “If they ever need to get in touch with you, they will do it through the mail, and even with that, there will be enough information on there that you can tell that it's legitimate.
“Any time you get a phone call from the IRS, I would just hang up on them.”
Throughout the forum, Maisano, Holdsworth, Nolt and D'Ambrosio emphasized that in the event of a senior who suspects that a scam is being committed, that he or she contact a local police department for assistance.
Tuesday's event was the second in a continuing series of safety forums that the three local agencies are sponsoring in the community. A similar forum will be held on Feb. 21 in the William Penn Lounge, at Kendal-Crosslands' Longwood community, 1109 E. Baltimore Pike, Kennett Square, beginning at 10 a.m.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preventing Scams: Tips for Seniors
Remember: It's shrewd, not rude, to hang up on a suspicious telemarketer.
・ Don't give personal information to people you don't know, unless you initiated the contact.
・ Don't let yourself get pressured into a verbal agreement or signing a contract.
・ Be skeptical of online charitable solicitations and other online offers. If interested, ask to receive the information in the mail, and check to be sure that the company is legitimate.
・ Never agree to pay for products or services in advance.
・ Get estimates and ask for references on home repair offers and other products and services.
・ If you suspect fraud, contact your local law enforcement agency, immediately.
・ For more information, visit the National Crime Prevention Council at www.ncpc.org.