The Coast News Group
Community CommentaryOpinion

Time to end phone elder abuse

I just received a phone call from a 92-year-old friend. He sheepishly informed me that he had just been defrauded. He had given out his Social Security and Medicare numbers to a phone scammer.

I told him to contact the Social Security and Medicare to report the fraud.

When is this nightmare for our older citizens going to end?! When is this incredibly large and complex criminal enterprise going to be stopped? When are our governmental representatives going to stop pontificating about this national criminal emergency and take the legislative and enforcement steps to make it end?

You want to know how bad it is? Try these statistics on for size.

It’s been estimated that $40 billion a year are stolen from our citizens by these activities. Every year, one out of every six U.S. citizens are victims. AARP estimates that 80% of those victims are older than 50 years of age.

In the year 2018, a record 48 billion robocalls were placed to phones in the U.S.. This is the way the math works out – 1500 robocalls per second – 56.8% more robocalls than were placed in 2017.

Another frightening statistic. 40% of those billions of robocall’s placed in 2018 were scam calls trying to trick consumers into giving away valuable personal information or directly defrauding them out of their money.

It seems like there’s a new fraudulent scam born every day. There is IRS fraud, Social Security fraud, Medicare fraud, and credit card fraud. The list has no limits.

An example is the IRS fraud scam. A person with a command voice recently has been calling our home stating that he’s a policeman. He goes on to state that we are behind in our IRS tax payments. Furthermore that we will be arrested if we don’t immediately make payments which are obviously going to head into the criminal’s pockets.

Although I’m an experienced attorney I recently got taken for a short time until I finally figured out a new scam. A phone call from SDG&E claiming that if I didn’t make a payment through some wacky payment system, our power was going to be turned off.

If, with my experience, I momentarily fell for the scam, what happens to other older people? Answer, they get fleeced!

Do you know what “spoofing” is? The crooks temporarily steal local phone numbers to make robocalls. I had a recent fraudulent robocall where the caller ID showed the name and phone number of an Encinitas Planning Commissioner that I’m familiar with.

I read of one person who complained that a robocall was made to him “by himself”. They used his phone number and his caller ID!

Many of these illegal phone calls originate from criminal rings located in other countries. I personally was clipped for over $900 bucks by a scam that managed to remotely shut down my computer. As near as I can figure, the scammers were located in Bangladesh!

“Call block” is available with many telephone systems. It doesn’t stop the phone from ringing but it only rings once. Lately more than half of our phone calls are either about to be call blocked or have previously been called blocked.

What a wonderful way to spend your retirement years!

Those that are opposing addressing this absolutely critical issue are cloaking themselves in the Constitution’s free speech. This isn’t a Constitutional issue, it’s a function of their profits.

Let me offer an analogy. If someone shows up and knocks on your door brandishing a gun, does free speech under the Constitution mandate you open the door to let him come in and tell you what he wants? That’s what they’re doing. Permitting the intrusion into your home to hold you up, to rob you of assets and personal information. Instead of using a gun, there brandishing a phone.

What’s the difference?

The authorities can stop this. The telephone companies can stop this if the authorities make them. If our data driven society is such that somebody somewhere knows everything about me except whether or not I brushed my teeth this morning, then the technology is obviously available to take care of this enormous national criminal crisis.

Tell your Congressman to do it now!

Charley Marvin