Scams targeting the elderly are more prevalent than ever

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        The number of scammers who target the elderly are increasing every day, bilking our seniors out of billions of dollars every year. If you fall prey to these scams, you just could find your bank accounts cleaned out.
        The one scam that seems to be at the top of the list is one in which the callers say they are calling from Medicare or an insurance broker who represents a company that can assist you with finding the right Medicare insurance policy for you.
        These scammers have apparently gotten ahold of a list of people who are age 65 and older. I turned 65 a couple of weeks ago and I have been receiving these calls myself for the last couple of months.
        These scam phone calls are not easy to detect because they use a fake caller ID that is usually from our own area codes of 419 and 567, giving the person receiving the call the impression that it’s a local call.
        There are a couple of things to listen for when you get a call from these scammers. First, they rarely talk back to you immediately when you answer. You will usually hear a sound that is hard for me to describe in this article other than to say it sounds a lot like a drip of water from a faucet.
        In almost every one of these calls I have received, the caller has a foreign accent but says his name is an American name. When I ask them what city they are calling from, they are quick to say some American city. Knowing that the call is a scam, I then ask them why they are using a fake phone number to call me, pointing out my caller ID is showing they are calling from (Bowling Green) Ohio. If they haven’t already hung up on me, I ask them why I should trust them if they have to use a fake phone number to call me, then I hang up on them.
        Many people, including trusting elderly citizens, may fall into the trap of giving these callers personal information, hoping the caller can save them money on a Medicare insurance policy. Many people think that if they haven’t given them all their personal information, they are safe. Not so in many cases. They may have other ways of getting this important other information.
        I typically answer these calls because I never know if it is a call from someone needing my help, and I know what to listen and watch for. I always tell my Neighborhood Watch members they should let the call go to voicemail or an answering machine if they don’t recognize the number. If it’s a legitimate call, they should leave you a message with a callback number.
        Another twist to the above scam is one in which the caller is trying to sell you a car insurance policy or a car warranty. There are also those who want to save you interest on your credit cards.
        Another favorite of mine is those who purport to be from a benevolent organization for police or fire departments, looking for donations to help these agencies. These can be tricky because there are legitimate organizations that raise money, but a local department will probably not see one dime of any donation you may make. In many cases, these organizations take in money that goes to high salaries for their corporate officials, leaving only pennies on the dollar to go to any department.
        For those who want to make a donation to help their local department, I suggest calling your department directly and asking how you can make a donation that department will actually benefit from.
        The list of scams that target the elderly are endless and I have discussed many of them in previous columns. Remember that you should do your homework by checking out thoroughly any company or organization from which you receive a phone call, email, or letter.
        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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