Crime Prevention Corner Seniors can be the biggest target for scammers, thieves

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        As a crime prevention officer and community policing officer, it is my job to do what I can to assist all Lake Township residents in efforts to avoid becoming victims of crime and to address the needs of public safety. I find that I spend much of my time dealing with senior citizens.
        There are multiple reasons seniors are in need of this attention, but the main one is that they are most often the victims of crime, especially when it comes to scams.
        Seniors are very trusting in nature, sometimes leading them to exceptional vulnerability when it comes to scams. Of course, the scammers know this, so they are on the prowl for elderly victims. Another reason they are targeted is because they usually have higher bank account balances over which thieves salivate.
        It is nearly impossible to keep track of the various scams used to swindle people out of their money. As soon as one type of scam is being addressed, another one pops up on the crime prevention radar.
        Because many of the scams involve the purchase of gift cards, this should be a red flag to everyone that there is a scheme involved. Likewise, if someone tells you they need your help catching someone involved in banking irregularities, don’t get involved. Law enforcement and bank officials have plenty of fellow officials to assist them without involving members of the public.
        Several years ago, our state legislature changed the laws to make many crimes against the elderly more serious. Not only does a crime against a senior elevate the charge, sometimes from a misdemeanor to a felony, but it also makes the penalty more serious. Increases in fines and jail or prison time are part of this effort to thwart such crimes.
        Of course, you have to catch the thief before you can charge him or her with a crime, and that’s where scammers get off the hook so easily. Because many scams originate from outside the country, it is extremely difficult to catch and prosecute them.
        It is very unfortunate that law enforcement officials have to tell many victims of scams there is little likelihood they will ever get their money back.
        Remember the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” This rings especially true when it comes to scams. That is why we in crime prevention are out there every day telling the public about the latest scams and how to avoid them.
        There’s another saying that should be remembered—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
        We are here to help others and are willing to do what we can to assist our residents in avoiding scams that can take their life savings. One great example of this was the assistance we gave last week to a township couple who received an email attempting to get them to give personal information that clearly would have led to the loss of money.
        Because this case involved an email, there was also a chance their computer could have been infected with malware that can be used to glean personal and banking information. I am happy to report we were able to give them advice on how to protect their computer before the scammers could act.
        If you receive a phone call, email or other communication that entails a request for personal or banking information, do not give it. This is especially true if it is unsolicited. Report any such attempts to your local law enforcement agency.
        This article is a public service from the Community Policing/Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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