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Pulling a scam? Nevis seniors are now well prepared

Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer faced a room full of savvy seniors Wednesday who knew all about scams. Telemarkers may want to watch out for this group. They're tough customers. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer faced a room of savvy senior citizens Wednesday when he tried to educate them about scam artists.

Many were already experienced victims - and near victims who were quick enough to ward off, or hang up on, a deal that was too good to be true.

Some even brought their mail scams with them, including the "winner" of a chunk of money who needed to send a wire transfer fee and sign a waiver to recoup his winnings. He passed.

So Homer was preaching to the choir at the Nevis Senior Citizen Center.

The feisty group was aware of the "grandparent" scams, in which an alleged grandchild calls from a foreign jail or needs money for an emergency.

One participant mentioned a young man had pulled the exact scam at a local senior citizen housing complex, but chose the wrong victim - the only guy in the place that didn't have grandkids.

Hands went up when Homer asked them if they'd ever had someone try to weasel private information or credit card numbers out of them.

"Did you lose any money?" Homer asked one woman who shook her head no. "Good."

But even with a wise audience, Homer told the seniors 30 percent won't report crimes out of fear, retaliation or denial.

One woman complained about computers, because many Internet sites denote that persons are seniors.

They're ripe for the pickings, she argued.

Homer cautioned them about inviting strangers in, shredding bills so "dumpster divers" can't pull private information out of the trash. And he urged them to call authorities if someone "needs help and wants to get in to use your phone."

Seniors are vulnerable because they're easier to prey on, more trusting, easier to convince and have assets.

Retirement accounts, equity in a home and other property are lures for scams, Homer cautioned them.

"Telemarketers are one of the bigger problems we have in the county," he said. "It's a $40 billion dollar industry" across the nation; 75 percent of its victims are seniors.

But judging from the reaction, the 20 Nevis seniors gathered knew when to hang up or begin interrogating their callers.

But since a scam is born every minute, Homer simply urged the seniors to be vigilant and mindful. It's exhausting trying to keep up with each new twist, he said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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