The Delta Senior Center welcomed Delta Police Chief Robert Thomas on Dec. 11, and the more than 40 senior diners for lunch that day received a lot of good information about scams and frauds being played on older adults by those Thomas several times called "hoodlums and thugs."
At the top of his list of warnings to seniors were charity scams, which are very common during the holiday season.
"If you do not recognize a charity, don't donate any of your hard-earned money," he said.
Although many seniors are not familiar with online computing, Chief Thomas warned those who are not to click for entrance into a website if you are not familiar with it.
Thomas was adamant about keeping one's personal privacy and not giving out personal information, including your social security number. "Your social security number is as good as gold to hoodlums and thugs if they want to draw from your bank account," he said. Identity thieves can use someone's personal information to get credit cards in the victim's name, and then spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the cards. Ultimately, the victim receives the bills from companies demanding payment in the mail for the criminal's purchases.
"Don't share your personal information with people you don't know," Thomas said, adding a person's birthdate is also a valuable piece of information to scammers.
Thomas advised the seniors to invest in a paper shredder, or have a good pair of scissors handy. He recommended shredding or cutting up all mail you intend to throw out that has your name, address and any other personal information on it. If using scissors, tear off the parts with your name, address, and other personal info, and cut up in strips like a shredder would. "This is extremely important. There are people here in the City of Delta who go through trash cans looking for credit card and other personal information," Thomas said.
A person's mailbox is also a target for identity thieves. "Every day, take your mail out," Thomas said. "Do not allow mail to sit for an extended amount of time in the mailbox, or someone out there will go 'fishing.'" He suggested a post office box as an alternative to home mail.
When a solicitor comes to a person's door, Thomas said be firm and assertive. "Tell them, 'Get off my property!'" He says the same when he encounters solicitors at his home. "You need to be assertive and strong to protect yourself."
With telemarketers, just hang up. Don't try to call them back on the caller I.D. number or you could be billed for the call, even if it is not answered.
Vehicle repairs are an often overlooked danger to seniors being cheated. Thomas said Delta has pretty honest people. "I don't believe any business here would take advantage of senior citizens." He did advise first choosing a well-known and reputable company, then contacting the Better Business Bureau to see if the business has had complaints filed. When taking your vehicle in, bring a family member who can ask questions, he said. Finally, make very clear to repair shops what you want done and nothing more.
Families in grief are also a target for identity thieves. Thomas said crooks look at the obituaries for people who have died and use the information and names of family members to steal identities.
Thomas recommended a safe to put family and personal documents in.
Although it may be emotionally hard, Thomas asked the seniors to call the police department if they think a family member has taken advantage of them or violated the law. "We need to know," he said.
Other recommendations from the chief were the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) for information on scams and the "Do Not Call" phone registry, and Delta County Adult Protective Services for help in avoiding scams.
He urged the seniors not to donate to the "Fraternal Order of Police" if they call or send requests. "I don't support them and I don't know where the money's going," he said. He also doesn't recommend entering the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes because he doesn't know what is being done with the information.
In conclusion, if seniors feel they are involved in a scam, or about to be, they should call the Delta Police Department at 874-7676 and ask for Sindy Bruton or Ginger Redden. "Bring any questionable documents to the police department and we will contact them," he said. "Or call and ask for me (Chief Robert Thomas) in person."blog comments powered by Disqus