It can’t get much worse for a senior to be swindled out hard-earned cash, so a group calling itself Stop Senior Scams are making their way around the Los Angeles basin providing advice on how not to become a victim of fraud.
On Friday, they made a stop at the South Pasadena Senior Center, courtesy of State Senator Anthony Portantino, to bring awareness of scams that are targeted toward older Americans.
“There are people who prey upon the goodwill of others,” said Portantino. “I think this is an important program, noting that current seniors are from the Greatest Generation, describing those who grew up in the U.S. during the Great Depression, many going on to fight in World War II “They were brought up to be helpful. So, now we have to help them have a little dose of caution and to slow down and ask for help. That’s why the troupe shared this message.”
During his remarks to the seniors dining on lunch that he provided, the State Senator noted that one in 18 older adults falls pray to financial fraud in any given year. In a recent study, it’s estimated that Americans lose $36.5 billion each year to financial scams and abuse and the problem is growing.
Stop Senior Scams presented an hour-long theatrical performance designed to inform older adults about fraud and scams seniors fall victim to and ways to prevent it. It was unique and different in the sense that a series of short plays allowed audience members to visualize the scams rather than reading and hearing about them.
Unscrupulous individuals seeking a quick buck have duped many in the troupe out of money. “The cast members are themselves victims or near victims of such a con,” explained Portantino. “These are true life experiences.”
Among the messages provided to audience members during the series of skits stressed the importance to do the following:
•Never send money to collect a prize. Instead, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
•Never give a person direct link to your bank account.
•If you suspect it’s a scammer is calling on the phone, simply hang up.
•Never give money to someone you don’t know.
•The IRS doesn’t call on the phone demanding money or threatening to put you in jail.
•Watch out for someone asking you for directions and distracting you long enough that a person from behind reaches into your back pocket and steals your wallet.
•Never hand out your Social Security number, even if the television infomercial seems honest and convincing. If you’re purchasing a medical product, like a brace, get it authorized by your physician first before purchasing it at a reputable store.
•Don’t fall for the obituary Scam. Scammers troll the obituaries, where they find the birthdate, address, family members and birth town of the deceased to create elaborate scams. Crooks can purchase a person’s Social Security number online and, armed with the proper information can access a person’s bank account.
•Avoid purchasing a pet online. Many innocent victims see that lovable poodle in a picture on the Internet, fork over tons of money and wait and wait. The dog never arrives.
Founded in 2009, Adrienne Omansky leads the organization that provides sound advice about scams that prey on seniors. In an entertaining way, the Stop Senior Scams hopes to protect the senior community and provide a valuable educational service.
“Our professional actors ages 65 to 99 are from various professions, including artists, writers, educators, librarians, business men and women, housewives, lawyers, musicians,” explained Omansky. “They all volunteer their time to help stop this No. 1 form of elder abuse.
The program was moderated by Francine Lyles, a former judge who stressed throughout the program, “Only you can stop senior scams,” urging the crowd to, “Step up, fight back and become empowered.”