Seniors learn to fight back

March 29, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Many seniors are finding out the hard way that there are predators out there who are trying to take the "gold" out of their golden years.

But armed with a few tips provided recently by Triad of Washington County, seniors can fight back.

More than 100 seniors attended an alert meeting last week at the Funkstown American Legion. They learned tips on how to avoid bank schemes, fraud and other ploys to relieve them of their money and valuables.

"Anyone can be a victim of fraud," said Diane Blackstock, a fraud specialist at Farmers and Merchants Bank.

Blackstock stressed that many times, schemers go for the most vulnerable person.

But all too often, the danger doesn't come from strangers - seniors are most likely to be preyed upon by their family members or caregivers, Blackstock said.

"Children, grandchildren and others may steal checks and forge them to get money," Blackstock said. "The statistics say it may be as high as 50 percent of all frauds on seniors."


Also speaking at the program were Jerry Iannacci, a veteran law enforcement officer and former bank fraud specialist, and Greg Snook, vice president of Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Williamsport.

They advised seniors:

* Never give your bank account or credit card number to any person, business or telephone callers.

* Don't put your bill payments in your mailbox the night before the postal pickup.

* Guard not only your checkbook but also your extra packs of checks. Check each number in the pack to make sure someone hasn't torn a check or two from the middle or end.

* Review your monthly bank statements as soon as you get them to make sure there are no fraudulent transactions. If there are, report them right away.

* Never throw away old bank statements, canceled checks or anything with your account or credit card numbers in the trash; shred them or keep them in a locked place.

* Don't endorse the back of a check until you get to the bank.

* Never leave ATM or bank receipts at teller counters or even in the trash containers at the ATM.

* Don't fall for the bank examiner scheme that requires you to withdraw money from the bank.

* Report any suspicious inquiries or behaviors to your bank or law enforcement agency.

"It's really good for seniors to be informed," said Lorena Stearns, a senior who attended the seminar. "We are an active group of seniors in Washington County."

Triad is a cooperative group of the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Sheriff's Department and International Association of Police Chiefs.

SALT, Seniors and Lawmen Together, is a spinoff advocacy group in Washington County.

Key words

Key words used by con artists: cash only, secret plans, get rich quick, something for nothing, contest, haste, today only, too good to be true, last chance, leftover merchandise.

Ten questions that will stop a scam

(hopefully the con artist will hang up or go away in disgust):

* Where did you get my name?

* What risks are involved?

* Would you speak with my attorney, accountant or banker?

* What government agency supervises your activities?

* How long has your company been in business?

* How much of my money goes for fees and commissions?

* Where will my money be held?

* What type of written statements will I receive and how often?

* Who are your firm's officers? Please provide references.

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