RANCHO SANTA FE — While fraud, scams and identity theft continues to rise, the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center wanted its residents to be empowered by learning more about these threats.
A recent visit from Gary Rivers, crime prevention specialist from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, explained to the attendees how people can protect themselves against all types of fraud.
Terrie Litwin, executive director at the RSF Senior Center introduced Rivers.
“Scam artists are getting smarter and smarter on how they go about attracting their victims,” she said. “I know Gary’s got the right information and we really appreciate him being here.”
Rivers agreed with Litwin. Fraudulent people are becoming more ingenious as far the different ways they are arriving at new scams. Rivers, a former San Diego Police Officer who retired from the force after 29 years, was delighted to educate people on how they can protect themselves. The senior community is particularly at risk with certain scams, he said.
Rivers explained there are indeed senior scams which play into the fears of how some seniors may be forgetful and more trusting.
According to Rivers’ statistics, seniors who lost $20,000 or more in financial exploitation went on to lose an average of $2,000 a year to other scams over the next five years.
Met Life is calling elder financial abuse as the “Crime of the 21st Century.”
Rivers went on to say that was once thought to cost the elderly $2.9 billion, True Link Financial found that it’s costing the elderly 12 times that estimate to a tune of about $36 billion.
“So it’s, a growing thing,” he said. “The losses are significant with not only actual dollars, but people have lost their homes, their dignity and their cherished independence.”
While the senior population represents 12 percent of the nation, he said, they account for 35% of fraud victims. And if that weren’t enough, Rivers pointed out that telemarketers make up for $40 billion of the $100 billion total annual lost by consumer fraud.
One way they are filtering out seniors is by opening the digital or paper white pages and finding names of people who were born in the 1940s and 1950s. Examples of these names would be Dorothy, Abigail, Stella, Florence and many more.
“So they’re getting kind of really sly as far as what they’re looking for when they pick out their victims,” he said.
Rivers named the top scam signs which include the following: the offer is too good to be true; scammers request for private information such as social security numbers and credit card numbers and codes; grammatical errors in letters and emails for new opportunities; request for fees if someone has incurred winnings; suspicious email domain; no physical property address on a correspondence; and, pressuring people to commit.
“Make sure that the business that you’re dealing with is a legitimate business,” he said. “And no legitimate lottry or sweepstakes is ever going to ask for money upfront.”
Another thing to be cautious about is someone wanting access to an individual’s computer. Rivers said people who do this, are able to delve into a person’s system and collect all types of personal information, including banking, passwords and so on.
Rivers also touched upon the “emergency distress call” scam. He explained this is when grandparents may get a call from a person posing as their grandchild who tells them they are in jail or in a foreign country and need money wired to them immediately.
Callers who think a relative is on the other end need bail money totaling around $2,000.
“When you get a call like this, and you’re on the phone with them, you need to ask yourself, ‘Does this sound like your grandchild?’” he told the crowd.
Although the caller will plead not to have the grandparent call the parents or other family members, ignore that request, hang up, and call others for verification.
“The other thing is these scammers will say they’ve been involved in an accident and need money for that,” he said, adding how callers will say they don’t sound like themselves because they have been injured.
While scammers are redefining more underhanded tactics to draw people in, Rivers had an important piece of advice to share: “Just say no.”