Authorities Warn of Scams Targeting Seniors

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Financial scams targeting the senior population of Riverside County and elsewhere are an ongoing concern, prompting authorities Thursday to urge residents to be alert to potential fraud and use simple steps to prevent being victimized.

“Bad actors continue to target seniors in fraudulent financial schemes,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said during a briefing at the Dales Senior Center in Riverside’s White Park. “I urge California seniors and their loved ones to be vigilant about the common predatory scams targeting the elderly population. I encourage everyone to learn about financial scams and to report any fraudulent activity to law enforcement.”

As part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Bonta joined Riverside police Chief Larry Gonzalez and others to spotlight the ways in which older residents might be targeted and what precautions they can take.

Gonzalez noted that victims of financial elder abuse might hesitate to divulge what has happened to them out of embarrassment or shame, but they shouldn’t feel that way.

“It is perfectly understandable why a senior may be reluctant to report they were victimized through a scam or elder abuse,” Gonzalez said. “But reporting suspected fraud helps law enforcement to not only catch and put away these scammers and recover any financial losses, but to prevent them from doing it to others.”

The speakers pointed to some of the more common fraud schemes and proffered ways in which seniors can protect themselves.

The “call center fraud” involves individuals contacting victims claiming to be from technical support, a government office, or sweepstakes notification business. The scam artist then attempts to solicit personal information from the victim.

According to authorities, before submitting any information over the phone, a call recipient should make every effort to “independently verify” who it is on the other end of the line.

The “investment scam” can entail Ponzi, pyramid, pump-and-dump and offshore financial arrangements.

“Scammers promise their victims high returns or guaranteed profits, but leave them instead with significant financial losses,” according to a California Department of Justice statement.

Authorities recommended first speaking with friends and family before agreeing to committing any funds for investment purposes, as well as avoiding high-pressure sales people, which is a red flag, and getting everything in writing pertaining to potential risks and returns associated with a money- making opportunity.

“Imposter scams” are another problem for seniors. The DOJ noted that offenders pretending to be friends or near and distant relatives are at the forefront of the frauds, “playing on victims’ emotions,” claiming to be in desperate need of funds because they’re stranded in a foreign country, suffering a medical emergency or in need of bail to get out of jail.

Officials encouraged anyone who receives these types of messages to vet them closely and contact family members to cross-verify the information before sending any money.

The “romance scam” was the last mentioned by the DOJ. It’s commonly perpetrated on dating platforms, as well as social media and via email. The scam artists often “express deep love, sympathy or vulnerability,” reeling the victim into a web of deceit intended to obtain money, according to the agency.

“Don’t send money or share personal or financial information with someone you haven’t met in person,” the DOJ stated. “Use various search engines to look up a person’s photos and details to see if these have been used elsewhere.”

Anyone who believes he or she has been targeted in a scam was urged to contact the DOJ’s Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-722-0432.

According to the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, roughly 1 in 10 seniors in the United States suffers “abuse, neglect or exploitation” annually.

“Every year, Riverside County Adult Protective Services receives about 50,000 calls and online reports of suspected elder abuse and neglect,” DPSS said. “Those reports lead to approximately 19,000 investigations per year.”

The county operates a 24-hour hotline to field reports of elder abuse at 800-491-7123.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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