Seniors learn how to stop the scam

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (left) addresses the audience at the Scam Stoppers Workshop held at Clovis Senior Center, May 11, 2018. (Photo contributed)

On Friday, May 11, the Clovis Senior Activity Center hosted a free and educational Scam Stoppers Workshop presented by Assemblyman Jim Patterson. The goal of the event was to raise consciousness of scams that are perpetuated on seniors as well as others. However, statistics show that seniors are the group most targeted.

“We hold these workshops a couple times a year, with about 70 people attending,” said Patterson. “We’re fighting back to resist scams and after getting the training here, you’ll be armed to protect yourself. I’d hate to be a scammer. We’ve heard from a man who came to a workshop, then soon after received a call from a scammer. He knew how to handle it by just hanging up and reported it to us.”

Experts spoke, answered questions and handed out information on how to spot and avoid scams. Information tables were manned by representatives of the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, Central Valley Alzheimer’s Association, Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, Valley Caregiver Resource Center, Clovis Police Department, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse and Contractors State License Board.

“Your information is bought and sold,” said Destin Watkins, representing the Clovis Police Department. “It is an unregulated area … don’t put your information out there.”

Watkins recommended requesting a credit freeze for added security; the freeze can be temporarily suspended if you want to apply for credit. Another upside of having a freeze in place is the elimination of credit card offers you’ll receive in the mail.

“Scams are all designed to make you panic and think emotionally not logically,” said Watkins. “Take a deep breath. Take yourself out of the scenario. What advice would you give someone who might have this experience? Take time to talk with family members or people you trust.”

Though schemes are constantly evolving, some common ploys include the Grandparent Scam, where an alleged grandchild desperately needs money; Sweepstakes Scam where money is requested in order to receive “winnings;” and Identity Theft when your financial information is used fraudulently.

Not all scams are conducted by phone, mail or over the internet. Cars that have sustained flood water damage may be re-registered and put up for sale. When buying a vehicle, check under seats and the dashboard for signs of rust or water damage.

Red Flags of a scam

  • Insistence you wire money immediately
  • Ask you not to tell family or friends
  • Demand that you act immediately
  • Bad grammar and misspellings
  • Refusal to stop calling even after you ask they stop
  • Promise you can win, borrow or make money easily
  • Hearing the words “free,” “low cost,” act now”
  • Gift cards are requested by the caller

Scam Prevention Tips

  • Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.
  • Don’t wire money.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi to check financial information or to use a credit card.
  • Set your privacy settings on social media so strangers can’t see your activities.
  • Never disclose personal or financial information on the phone, mail or internet.
  • Do not allow yourself to be pressured. Think it through, trust your instincts.
  • Be careful who you give your health insurance information to.
  • Check credit card and Medicare statements to ensure there are no unauthorized charges or services not provided.
  • Shred documents with identifying information.

It’s important scams are reported to law enforcement. The FBI takes reports on all scams at www.ic3.gov. Other agencies that take reports include:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-382-4357
  • Department of Consumer Affairs, 1-800-952-5210
  • US Postal Inspectors, 1-877-876-2455
  • Senior Medicare Patrol, 1-855-613-7080

Do you have sensitive items you need to shred? This Saturday, May 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Clovis Police Department is holding a free “Shred Fest” at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. Not only can you securely dispose of a maximum of 6-8 banker boxes of documents, you can meet the Clovis Police K9s and the chief of police as well as see the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

Carole Grosch :