Smarten up, seniors!

Elderly population a prime target for scams, identity theft and consumer fraud

Your telephone rings at 11 p.m. and wakes you. You groggily answer and a man identifies himself as a police officer. He urgently tells you that your niece has been in a car accident in Mexico. She is alive but needs money for medical expenses and to secure her car, and they don't know who else to call for help.

The anxiety begins to build and you follow the officer's directions, offering your credit card number to transfer funds immediately. You hang up the phone, and as your racing heart slows you begin to realize that your niece has never been to Mexico... and why didn't the authorities call her parents?

As you put the pieces together, the truth surfaces: you have just been scammed.

Scams on the rise

Consumer fraud is the fastest growing type of crime in the country. In an effort to raise awareness and keep people safe, New York State Assistant Attorney General Jaunita Williams presented to about 20 seniors Thursday at Camillus Ridge Terrace assisted living home about the dangers of consumer fraud.

Williams began by warning the group that, as seniors, they were particularly susceptible to this type of crime.

"Seniors are so vulnerable to consumer fraud," Williams said. "I say that's because you are very generous and very giving."

Having the desire and ability to help puts seniors in a sticky spot, and makes them a prime target for scammers.

Some of the most recent scams that have been reported in the area involve calls to elderly residents reporting that they've failed to show up for jury duty and there is a warrant out for their arrest. The caller then appears to sympathize with them and offers to help, but requests personal information to identify that they are speaking with the correct person.

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