Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Oklahoma seniors are reminded to beware of scams during holiday season

Scams and tricks aimed at senior citizens are again on the rise this holiday season, as perpetrators try to steal money, furniture, jewelry, family heirlooms, stock certificates, cellphones, prescription medications and identities, state elder care leaders say.

“Financial exploitation is a crime. It robs the victims of more than their assets. It takes away their sense of safety, peace of mind and dignity,” said Cindy Opheim, field representative for Adult Protective Services.

“Many victims are afraid to report exploitation because of retribution from the abuser, fear of being seen as out of touch, or they are ashamed or embarrassed they were victimized,” Opheim said.

“Victims who are cognitively impaired may not be able to report they were victimized.”

Often, “the elderly are depressed and lonely and when someone reaches out to them, they appreciate the conversation and company,” said Mary Brinkley, director of Leading Age Oklahoma, which represents not-for-profit aging services in the state.

“By befriending the elderly, scammers actually ask the person to send a check, pay a bill or buy merchandise from them. They go back and ask their 'friend' for continued help and they get the money. The elderly individual doesn't see it as a scam, since they are helping a friend,” Brinkley said.

"It is important that someone is providing oversight to the financial resources of seniors, because oftentimes when it is discovered, it's too late,” she added.

Common scams
The names of vulnerable adults are often as good as cash, elder care officials said. There are many scam scenarios, said Sheryl Presley, TRIAD coordinator for the Oklahoma City Police Department. 
TRIAD was formed more than a decade ago to curb crimes against seniors.

Presley has particular recommendations for seniors.

“TRIAD recommends that, when possible, seniors' homes should have caller ID, so they can see the name and number of the person calling. If they do not recognize the number, they shouldn't answer it,” she said.

Examples where seniors have been victims include the so-called IRS scam.

“A scammer calls and leaves a message saying it's the IRS, and they did an audit and you owe them money," Presley said. The caller threatens to sue or arrest the senior.

But the truth, Presley said, is: “The IRS never calls you; they only send out a letter if you owe money. IRS has no power to issue a warrant for your arrest, only a police department does. The call is very scary to our seniors and they are convinced that they really owe the IRS money.”

Then there's the “grandparent scam.”

“Scammers are from another country. They call the senior early in the morning or late at night, hoping they are asleep. They pretend to be a grandson or granddaughter. They then tell the grandparent they went to Mexico or Canada with some friends and rented a car. Police allegedly stopped them and asked if they could search the car; the suspect says they said yes, and drugs were found," Presley said.

"Then they say: 'Please don't tell Mom and Dad. My bail is $2,000. When I get back we can tell Mom and Dad together.'"

The senior will wire the money believing it was their grandchild, Presley said.

"Having a code word for family members is a good way to verify a family member's identity,” Presley said.

Elder care officials also have identified charity, sweepstakes and home-repair scams.

For help or information
For more information, Presley can be reached at 316-4336.
If you believe you have been targeted by scammers, contact the Oklahoma attorney general's office at 521-3921 or the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 382-4357.

Full Article & Source:
Oklahoma seniors are reminded to beware of scams during holiday season

1 comment:

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