Seniors Increasingly Targeted by Scams
Experts warn against scammers asking for banking information
ANCHORAGE - From telephones to computers, scammers will use any method possible to get between you and your hard-earned money. And it’s seniors who are the easiest targets.
Unfortunately here in Alaska it's becoming more and more of a problem but in order to stop the variety of scams going on, experts say it’s important to understand why seniors are being targeted in the first place.
It’s something one family is just now trying to figure out after one phone call.
It's a phone call Shannon Carte wasn't expecting. “The lady asked for Mary Petty Owens and I said, ‘well this is her niece, can I help you?’” said Carte. “She goes, ‘well, I’m from the Department of Education, and your aunt will be receiving a very hefty grant in the mail within the next six business days.”
The caller knew Mary's full name and cell phone number, and Shannon started to ask questions. “I said, ‘okay, well umm, no…’ and she hung up the phone on me.”
The problem is Aunt Mary is 54 years old suffers from dementia. She gets by on social security and public assistance checks and lives with her older sister Catherine Carte. “It just threw up red flags,” she says. Mary doesn't go to school, only the Anchorage Senior Center. Catherine believes people claiming to be education officials giving out scholarships called her sister.
“She gets SSI and public assistance, and of course these people are going to know that they get it at the beginning of the month,“ said Catherine Cartes.
It's one of several scams targeting seniors in which the scammers ask for bank or credit card numbers. “Anytime you're asked to wire money out of the country, anytime you’re asked to pay upfront fees…” said the Better Business Bureau of Alaska’s Adam Harkness, who said the office gets calls about senior scams every day. “They fall for that quick sales pitch; someone will say give us this money up front and we can turn around and double it.”
The elderly are targeted because of their nest eggs and experts say seniors are less likely to report the scams. “If a crime is reported, they are much less likely to remember important details [like] what the caller sounded like, what was going on in the background,” said Harkness.
Mary's family worries she could fall prey again. “She might not remember what she did, you know,” said Catherine Carte. While they may have protected her this time, the next time they may not be so successful. “I've kept a close eye on her checking account and everything,” said Carte.
The Cartes filed a report with Anchorage police and the Department of Education and alerted the Anchorage Senior Center. Other scams include the mystery shopper, grandparent scam and internet payday lenders. The Better Business Bureau urges you to call them if you are unsure of any phone call, email, or letter you receive.