BY BARRY WARNER
Rockland County TRIAD is a nonprofit, three-way commitment among Rockland County Chiefs of Police, the Rockland County Sheriff and the AARP organization. Its main purpose is to reduce senior citizen victimization and enhance a sense of security and safety through education and training. The main area of focus is on programs that will teach ‘fraud-scam’ prevention techniques geared towards the elderly, in cooperation with the law enforcement community.
George Wood is a retired NYPD detective and lectures to many senior citizen clubs in the county. “Fraudsters use different tactics to get the elderly to fall victim to their schemes,” Wood told the Rockland County Times. “Fraudsters can be friendly, sympathetic and willing to help in some cases, or use fear tactics in others. The elderly may be lonely, willing to listen to telephone conversations and are more trusting than younger individuals. The elderly are prime targets to schemes that involve credit cards, home repair, vacation offers, sweepstakes or contests, charities, banking or wire transfers, phishing, plus imposter fraud or grandparent scams. Those who had been victimized are counseled to call their local police departments and report the crimes.”
In the sweepstakes and lottery scam, an elderly person is informed that he/she is a winner and needs to make some sort of payment to receive the prize. Often, the senior will be sent a fake check to be deposited in the bank account. During that interval, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize that they pocket while the victim has the so-called ‘prize money’ removed from the account as soon as the check bounces.
Phishing is when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or copycat websites to get the senior citizen to share valuable personal information, such as account numbers, social security numbers, log-in IDs and passwords. Scammers use the information to steal money, the identity of the person or both. Scammers use phishing emails to get access to the person’s computer, and then install programs like ransomware that can lock the senior out of important files. Phishing scammers lure their target into a false sense of security by ‘spoofing’ the familiar, trusted logos of established companies.
Con artists are spending time searching Facebook and other social networking sites to learn everything they can about the grandchildren of potential targets. With personal information, scam artists are able to learn where grandchildren go to school and where they vacation. Through basic internet searches, they can find grandparents’ home telephone numbers. Supplied with this information, scammers are calling elderly people at home and claiming to be their grandchild or someone who’s with them. They offer up details about the grandchild’s life and then ask for money that ranges from bail money, hospital bills, attorney’s fees or an airline or bus ticket. Once successful, the scammer will maintain the fictional account and call the victim with more traumatic stories to exact more cash.
All homes need repairs and improvements, and there are corrupt companies out there that will trick seniors into paying more for their services or paying for services they will never receive. These home repair scams target seniors by door-to-door campaigns and telephone calls offering repairs at discounts or explaining that repairs have to be made immediately.
Fake charities try to take advantage of an elderly person’s generosity and compassion for others in need. Scammers will steal money by posing as a genuine charity. Unfortunately, the scams cost the person money and divert the much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes, such as floods, earthquakes or fires. These charities operate in a number of different ways. The elderly may be approached on the street or at the front door by people collecting money. Scammers may set up fake websites, which look similar to those operated by real charities, will call or email requesting a donation.
“I volunteer because of my concerns that seniors are targeted by the scammers,” Wood concluded. “I plan to lecture at the senior clubs as long as I can to help reduce the criminal victimization of the elderly and give them the tools to fight the scams and not be victims.”
To learn more about TRIAD, call George Wood at 845-215-5697 or visit www.rocklandcountytriad.org.