CASE takes a stand against fraud, ID theft
As senior citizens enjoy their twilight years, you might guess that health and home are their main concerns. Unfortunately, criminals often target senior citizens, meaning fraud, identity theft and similar anxiety-causing issues can be added to the list.
One way senior citizens are combating these issues is through education.
A special presentation on these issues was held by CASE (Communities Against Senior Exploitation) at Lighthouse of Waconia on Thursday, Nov. 15. Approximately 75 CASE presentations have been made in the metro and outer metro area since 2006.
Mike Fahey, the former Carver County Attorney who is now a 1st Judicial District Judge for Scott County, and Kelley P. Archer, a Security Incident Handling Manager for United Health Group, led the presentation, which empowers senior citizens to protect themselves from telemarketing fraud, caregiver fraud, identity theft, and more.
“Most senior citizens grew up in a time when business was done with a simple handshake and a verbal agreement,” Fahey said. “Transactions were conducted on trust and reputation. Unfortunately, crooks prey on that trust. Con artists know that Minnesotans are a polite bunch, willing to listen to sales pitches and promises.”
Fahey noted how fraud could financially devastate older Minnesotans.
“Most seniors live on fixed incomes such as a pension while one-fifth of Minnesotans over the age of 60 depend solely on Social Security for income,” he said, citing information available from the office of the Minnesota Attorney General. “With fixed incomes it is nearly impossible to replenish bank accounts or money saved for retirement when it is taken by a scam.”
Sadly, there’s no shortage of scams when it comes to identity theft and fraud.
According to Archer, identity theft has been the #1 crime in the United States every year since 2006. One in three U.S. families has been a victim and one in four people have been a victim of this crime. In a strange twist, identity theft often means the victim is arrested for a crime and is presumed guilty until he or she proves their innocence.
Archer said criminals prey on seniors in several ways.
Oftentimes, a criminal will pose as someone seniors think they can trust — bank, credit card company, meter reader, charity provider, or a law enforcement, legal or some other type of authoritative organization — and give their information to.
Sometimes, criminals also pretend to be someone specific senior citizens know, i.e. the Grandparent Scam (“I’m in jail, need money, don’t tell Mom and Dad!”).
Senior citizens learn about these and other scams in the CASE presentation.
“By being aware of the methods, risks and potential damage that may occur, senior citizens can be better prepared as to how to react to various threats as well as being armed with the knowledge on how to protect their information and identity,” Archer said.
Archer and Fahey said there are some easy ways that seniors can use to help protect themselves from fraud and identity theft.
“If the email or phone call is unsolicited, hang up and don’t share personal information unless they contact a known source. They should proactively monitor their three credit reports and resolve any discrepancies immediately,” said Archer, noting that unfortunately, it’s time to forget “Minnesota Nice.”
Fahey warned senior citizens about “You Have Won” calls and mail that tells them that they have just won a fabulous prize. The scam can be spotted through several clues:
• The caller or the mail piece tells you, “You have won a prize.”
• In order to get the prize you are told to purchase a product such as a magazine, pay a processing fee, or pay taxes on your winnings.
• You are asked to provide a credit card or checking account number to get the prize.
• You are pressured to act quickly.
“Hang up when you get a call like this,” Fahey said. “If you really win a prize, you will get it absolutely free, with no strings or fees attached per Minnesota law.”
Both Archer and Fahey volunteer their time to give the CASE presentation because it’s important to them to help seniors protect themselves from criminals.
“If they think their identity has been compromised or stolen, immediately contact local police and open a file,” Archer suggested. “Obtain the file number, then contact the FTC. They can provide assistance as to what steps to take, unless of course they’ve attended one of our briefings.”