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Local scam prevention seminar informs, warns

By Christine Foster
Journal Reporter

On Aug. 13, Kay Hirrill of Stoney Brook Retirement Center hosted the Right at Home care and assistance company at a senior scam stopper seminar.  Jon Searles, certified senior advisor and his staff, Tiffany Babeu and Angie Rigg, presented the 10 most common senior scams and frauds.  Searles went into detail about the 160 scam approaches which affect 7.9 million seniors each year.

The program opened with a brief presentation by Sgt. William Hamilton of the Belton Police Department.  He discussed the “hide, lock, take” program.  This is a plan to discourage the theft of items in your car: Hide the items; Lock the doors;      Take your things with you.
Hamilton also touched on an example of a local veteran who was promised a large sum of money, in excess of $200,000, in return for a processing fee of several thousand dollars.  This gentleman was threatened and coerced into sending over $10,000 to this scammer in Nigeria.  As Hamilton explained, once the money has been sent overseas, it is gone and it is impossible to prosecute the scammer.
Searles followed Hamilton’s remarks with a more in depth approach to the following 10 scams: healthcare fraud/health insurance fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery fraud, fraudulent “anti-aging” products, telemarketing fraud- prizes and sweepstakes, repairs and charities, internet fraud, investment schemes, ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, reverse mortgage scams, mail fraud, face-to-face scams.
“A hundred percent of people will be approached by scammers, and 20 percent will become victims,” Searles said.
These crimes total almost 3 billion dollars in loss, but only one of 24 cases will ever be reported.  Searles cites embarrassment as a large factor in the low reporting rate.
Searles concluded his presentation with the suggestion that seniors should have a trusted “fraud friend” or “scam buddy”.  Since exploitation can be conducted by people you know and others you don’t, just remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.