Falling victim to fraud

Seniors are often targets of phone and mail scams

Anyone who suspects a scammer should call the agency or government entity the person claims to represent to verify the information. If it is a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.

More information on popular scams can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. For more information on scams as they relate to elder abuse, visit www.centeronelderabuse.org.

IRS phone scam: The caller claims to be from the IRS with a number that shows up on caller ID associated with law enforcement. Potential victims are told they owe tax money and must pay immediately or risk arrest.

Credit card fraud department: The caller says there is suspicious activity on your credit card and claims to represent the security department. All seems normal until, under the guise of verifying that the credit card is in your possession, the caller requests the security code. In this scam, the con artists already have your information and simply need the security code to complete it.

Magazine scams: Sellers may claim they are raising money for a school or charity. The subscription prices are typically three to four times higher than what the magazine would normally cost. The seller claims those proceeds go to charity. They take your money, but no magazine ever arrives.

Dent repair: The con artists approach potential victims in busy commercial business parking lots and offer to fix all dents and scratches on the car for a fee of $125. The suspects then smear green gunk on the vehicle and tell the victim to wait 24 hours, and all the dents will be gone. They take the victim's money, and hours later it is discovered that the green substance has no restorative effect. Local suspects are associated with a white Dodge pick-up truck and canopy with a California licence plate. Those who see the scam in progress should call 911. Victims should call the Clark County Sheriff's Office at 397-6079.

Anyone who suspects a scammer should call the agency or government entity the person claims to represent to verify the information. If it is a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.

More information on popular scams can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. For more information on scams as they relate to elder abuse, visit www.centeronelderabuse.org.

IRS phone scam: The caller claims to be from the IRS with a number that shows up on caller ID associated with law enforcement. Potential victims are told they owe tax money and must pay immediately or risk arrest.

Credit card fraud department: The caller says there is suspicious activity on your credit card and claims to represent the security department. All seems normal until, under the guise of verifying that the credit card is in your possession, the caller requests the security code. In this scam, the con artists already have your information and simply need the security code to complete it.

Magazine scams: Sellers may claim they are raising money for a school or charity. The subscription prices are typically three to four times higher than what the magazine would normally cost. The seller claims those proceeds go to charity. They take your money, but no magazine ever arrives.

Dent repair: The con artists approach potential victims in busy commercial business parking lots and offer to fix all dents and scratches on the car for a fee of $125. The suspects then smear green gunk on the vehicle and tell the victim to wait 24 hours, and all the dents will be gone. They take the victim’s money, and hours later it is discovered that the green substance has no restorative effect. Local suspects are associated with a white Dodge pick-up truck and canopy with a California licence plate. Those who see the scam in progress should call 911. Victims should call the Clark County Sheriff’s Office at 397-6079.

Scammers are out in force, and often senior citizens are the targets.

Scams range from taxes owed to the IRS, to a grandchild needing bail money, to being able to fix vehicle dents inexpensively. But all share one commonality, according to law enforcement: The scammers want money, and they want it now.

“Be skeptical,” advised Kevin Harper, a Clark County Sheriff’s Office detective. “Screen your calls and never give money to someone who demands it right away. If someone is pushy or demanding, ignore them. You don’t have to be polite or tell them anything.”

On a typical day, Harper will receive five or six calls from people who have either been victims or potential victims of a scam. He suspects the actual number is much higher, but elderly people may fear reporting they have been victims because they are worried about losing their independence.

“A lot of these victims have assets and they get scared when they are threatened,” Harper said. “Some may not have anyone they really trust to talk about what is going on.”

A frequently reported scam during tax season is someone calling and claiming to be from the IRS, demanding that taxes be paid immediately or the person will be arrested.

According to Harper, the callers are typically foreign and use a fake phone number that shows up as law enforcement or the IRS on caller ID. He noted that it is important to remember that neither the IRS, nor any law enforcement agency, will ever call demanding money in lieu of being arrested.

“Also, the IRS never calls or emails,” he said. “When you hear from them, it’s through a certified letter. If someone is asked to pay a fee or a fine with a prepaid credit card, it’s a scam.”

Senior citizens are often viewed as easy prey for scammers because they are often isolated or too trusting.

Harper recommends screening telephone calls to avoid scammers.

“I don’t take calls from numbers I don’t recognize,” he said.

“If it’s a friend, they will leave a message. If not, then I haven’t missed anything.”

He also advises people that if someone calls claiming to need money right away, ask for the company name they are calling from and hang up, then call the customer service number to make sure the request is legitimate.

Joanne Bond, who lives in Camas, noted that it is crucial for senior citizens who live alone to stay connected to their neighbors, and continue to educate themselves.

“I read two newspapers, subscribe to 10 magazines and am active in my community,” she said. “I stay in contact with people and know what is going on.”

Bond, who is in her mid-80s, serves on the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together board. She said attending the monthly meetings is a great way to connect with other senior citizens and stay informed.

“If you don’t know who is on the line, hang up,” she said. “If you don’t recognize the person at your door, don’t let them in. We need to learn that we don’t have to be polite to everyone because that is what our parents taught us.”

According to the American Medical Association, senior citizens who have suffered elder abuse including financial abuse or exploitation have three times a greater risk of mortality than seniors who have not been abused. Also, for every one case of elder abuse, five go unreported.

Dianna Kretzschmar, a citizen of Camas and admissions coordinator at Prestige Care in Camas, is active with elder abuse prevention issues. She has also worked with the Clark County Elder Justice Center.

Recently, she was on hand when Camas Mayor Scott Higgins designated June 4 as Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Financial exploitation is considered one form of abuse.

“Elder abuse is the fastest growing crime in America today,” Kretzschmar said. “We lost $2.9 billion as a nation last year to elder financial exploitation. When we take a senior’s money, we take their ability to be independent, we take their ability to thrive and be a member of our community.”

She continued, “It’s not a sexy crime, it’s not a crime that gains national attention, but it’s happening everywhere, in every socioeconomic group. It touches a lot of lives, and a lot of lives in our community.”

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