Local seniors battle phone scammers

BY Sarah At a time when there's a scam-a-day out there, many seniors are arming themselves to do battle. Not that they were a pushover to begin with. "I've been getting letters in the mail for years" saying sh...

Scam-proofing seniors
Dolores Riley and Judy Miller, in the background, have taken part in a scam seminar to ward off groups that prey on senior citizens. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY Sarah smith

At a time when there’s a scam-a-day out there, many seniors are arming themselves to do battle.
Not that they were a pushover to begin with.
“I’ve been getting letters in the mail for years” saying she’d won the lottery, said senior Dolores Riley. She dutifully tosses them in the garbage without opening them.
If it’s a deal too good to be true, Riley figures it’s no good.
Then there was the day she got the call about the granddaughter who’d been in an accident overseas.
Riley didn’t bite on that one, either. Or the one about the grandson in jail in a foreign country. Please send bail immediately.
She said, “Which one?” and when the scammer replied, “the good looking one,” she kept pressing the caller for details he didn’t have.
When the scammer asked her for $3,000 to bail the kid out of jail, she said she didn’t have that kind of money.
“Well I can’t help you,” Riley told the caller.
“I told him he was nothing but a scammer,” said Margaret Galle, speaking of the same ruse she got called on.
She, too, got hung up on.
Senior Judy Miller got the call about her winning a large sum of money.
But first the scammer needed a “handling fee” of a few thousand dollars.
“I told them to take it off the top” of the winnings, she recalled.
The women sit around the lunch table at Woodland Court Apartments in Park Rapids discussing all the scams they are aware of. They’ve each been hit up with a replacement Social Security/Medicare/insurance card.
Each has had a call about the wayward grandchild stranded overseas.
“They picked the wrong group here,” Miller said.
“They tried me twice in one year,” Galle said, sounding more annoyed than preyed upon.
Increasingly seniors are trading information, educating each other, and sharing tips.
Last week the apartment complex hosted a seminar on preventing maltreatment of vulnerable adults. Financial exploitation is something to ward off, they were reminded.
The seminar was chockfull of valuable tips and agencies to report scams.
It came at a time when calls are being ramped up to pressure seniors into parting with their money.
One senior mused it sounded like a summer job.
These are the week’s scams reported to the Enterprise:
n The old Social Security/Medicare card scam. A local senior citizen got the call fishing for personal information. She questioned it to the point where the caller hung up, mostly out of exasperation.
n A second scam involved a phone company calling for verification of a password that happened to be the recipient’s Social Security number. “They sounded very formal, professional,” the victim said. The woman, too, questioned them to the point they hung up without getting what they called about.
n Yet another woman for the Medicare call. She ended her phone call warning people not to throw out unused deposit slips.
“They have your bank account number on them,” she said.
Callers are getting more ingenious, and more persistent.
The women of Woodland Court have their own strategy – make ‘em mad.
“I asked too many questions,” Miller recalled of one scammer she drove nuts.
“They wanted to give me a million something. This went on for over a year.”
Miller voiced some frustration: How stupid do you think we are?
“They can’t even speak English, yet they have a name like David Jones,” she said.
She could identify that the call was coming from “a boiler room operation. You could even hear kids in the background.”
The boiler room was obviously someone’s living room.
The Woodland Court seminar was put on by a Hubbard County Social Service employee, a cop and others who deal with senior populations.
The empowered seniors are fighting back.
One said her calls stopped when she canceled her landline. She was proud of her action.
“Oh yeah,” Miller said. “We’re not gonna be caught.”

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