State, local officials: Scammers target seniors with good credit

Lenny at the Crestview PD (not the mouse)
BRIAN HUGHES / News Bulletin
Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 at 12:39 PM.

CRESTVIEW — Tasha Carter, an assistant to Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, says that residents, particularly seniors, can expect scams to evolve.

Seniors, who control 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, are prime targets for scammers and identity thieves, Carter said Wednesday during an Operaton S.A.F.E. — Stop Adult Financial Exploitation — workshop at the Crestview Community Center.

Fraud by the numbers

Scams against seniors are big business, officials said.

“Seniors have excellent credit,” Carter said. “You’re not going to get very far if you target someone who has bad credit.”

Unfortunately, targeting seniors pays off. Officials cited these statistics:

• Seniors lose $2.9 billion annually through financial fraud

• 1 out of 10,000 seniors will report being scammed

• 1 out of every 5 people age 65 or older has been a financial fraud victim

• 79 percent have been scammed by a family member; 49 by a caregiver and 47 percent by a trusted friend or neighbor

• Women are twice as likely as men to be targets

• Most victims are 80-89, live alone and require assistance such as medical care, personal care or home maintenance

‘A war about information’

State Rep. Doug Broxson, one of the workshop sponsors, describes the ongoing fight against scams as “a war about information.”

“It’s a battle that’s going to have to continue,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to have many, many of these meetings to protect our citizens.”

In the meantime, here are some pointers:

●Crestview Police investigator Len Steinmeier said residents should never provide personal or financial information over the phone or on the Internet except in transactions they initiate.

●Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office crime prevention manager Ashley Bailey recommends residents sign up for online banking, which makes it easy for customers to keep up with their account activity.

●Above all, Steinmeier said, “Don’t get involved in any transaction you wouldn’t want to tell your pastor or your kids about.”

AREA SCAMS

Granny/Grandpa Scam: A caller pretends to be the victim’s grandchild, or a lawyer representing the grandchild, who needs bail money following a traffic accident.

Nigeria Scam: A “lawyer,” “government official” or “banker” emails the victim asking him or her to accept a large inheritance. The victim must pay a fee to receive the money.

Jury Duty Scam: A caller pretends to be a sheriff’s deputy or court official demanding payment of a fine for having missed jury duty the victim was not actually scheduled for.

Utility Disconnect Scam: A caller claims to represent a utility company and demands the victim log into his or her computer to perform updates or other operations that install malware.

Often the caller threatens the victim with a fine for not complying. Alternatively, the caller threatens to disconnect the service if a “late payment” isn’t paid immediately.

Lottery Scam: The victim receives a phone call or mailing claiming they “won” a foreign lottery but must pay “taxes” or a “courier fee” to receive their winnings.

Romance Scam: A lonely victim meets “the love of their life” on dating sites such as ChristianMingle.com. After several weeks or months of emotional involvement, the scammer asks for money for medical needs or plane tickets.

Home Improvement Scams: A “contractor” visits the victim and offers to seal their driveway, fix their roof, etc., but the “repair” is just a cheap paint job. Often the victim is pressured to hire the scammer before the “problem” increases and repairs are more costly.

Facebook Grant Scam: Several area residents have reported being notified on Facebook that they have “won” a large grant but must pay to receive the money.

WHO TO CALL

Residents can report suspicious financial activity to Crestview Police Department investigator Len Steinmeir, 682-2055, or Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office crime prevention manager Ashley Bailey, 651-7410

Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter  or call 850-682-6524.

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