“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Brentwood Police Lt. Doug Silva. “If someone calls you and says, ‘Hey, you just won a million dollars,’ it’s probably a scam.”
Since 2009, Silva has headed up the city’s Triad Program – a national council comprising local police, community organizations and seniors working together through outreach and communication to combat crime against the elderly. According to Silva, Brentwood’s 16,000 seniors have taken an impressive proactive approach to fighting fraud and crime in their own backyards.
“This has been a very successful program,” said Silva. “We’ve reached out to all of our senior communities in Brentwood and have held crime-prevention seminars, solicited their input on what they’re hearing and seeing and any safety concerns they have. And we share that information with advocacy groups in the area. What it’s allowed us to be is proactive instead of reactive.”
Brentwood isn’t the only community taking the proactive approach to crime. In Antioch, The Commons at Dallas Ranch is hosting an upcoming event – Walk Against Senior Fraud – on Aug. 1 at 9 a.m. Following a walk around the community, a number of guest speakers will explore with attendees some of the most common scams used to target seniors. The event is open to the public.
While the Triad Program and police department have detected no current scams to monitor in Brentwood, said Silva, staying vigilant and aware is the No. 1 way to stave off scams. The better educated to the signs of fraud seniors become, the better they’ll fend off those wolves in sheep’s clothing.
While myriad senior scams are floating around out there, postal and telemarketing are two of the most popular, said Silva. Seniors are often overly trusting and polite, and that combined with aging problems such as dementia and hearing loss can make them the perfect targets for scams.
When it comes to telemarketers the easiest thing for seniors to do when confronted by a caller who wants them to send cash, offer up their Social Security number or provide a credit card is to tell them you will call them back and then hang up. It’s also helpful to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry at 888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov, which will significantly reduce the number of telemarketing calls.
Seniors can condition themselves to simply toss the junk mail, especially those promising sweepstake fortunes or free items. The less clutter, the less confusion – and the less temptation to get something for nothing.
Seniors should also be aware that those discarded personal documents and bank statements sitting in the trash aren’t safe from scammers, who know how to sift through trash cans and steal important information. A shredder is a wise investment.
Postal officials also recommend not putting outgoing items in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. Signed checks and cash, even in sealed envelopes, can often fall into the wrong hands.
In the end, seniors – and everyone – should question miracle deals and one-of-a-kind offers. And if something looks or sounds dubious, report it to the local authorities.
“We always tell seniors to call us if they see or hear anything suspicious,” said Silva. “A lot of times older people don’t want to call and bother us, but we tell them, ‘When in doubt, call.’ It’s our job.”
For more information on the Brentwood Triad, call Lt. Silva at 925-634-6911 or click the following link http://bit.ly/LM9wNG. For additional information on the event at The Commons at Dallas Ranch, call 925-754-7772.