Police chief talks senior-targeted scams at Fraud Summit

Published 8:03 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

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Denise McCain, police chief of Lanett Police Department, spoke about fraud and scams during this year’s Summit event hosted by the East Alabama Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday. 

The Summit was held at the Lanett Recreation Center where the senior center is located. 

The program, which ran for the first time last year, hosted five guest speakers including McCain; Carl Bates, from the Better Business Bureau (BBB); Parker Still, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Teresa Speigner, administrator of the SHIP program; and Mikala McCurry, from the Alabama Securities Commission (ASC). 

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McCain touched on an issue that is very common among senior citizens and older adults. According to an LPD pamphlet, the crime of the 21st century is considered scams targeting seniors and older adults. 

Because older adults usually have good savings and good credit scores, they are generally lucrative targets. It often takes weeks to realize that they have been scammed, and by then, they may be too ashamed to let anyone or don’t know where to report it.

Many scammer practices can also lead to identity theft, which is when a scammer gets information like credit card information, social security numbers and other personal information. 

Fraud scammers have become more advanced in recent years, particularly with the advancements in AI and other technology. 

Some scammers will call claiming to be from the police department or court claiming that you missed jury duty and must pay a fine to avoid a warrant being issued for your arrest. McCain said the police department would never call over the phone asking for any card information. 

Another instance, McCain said she has seen before is if tech support or other IT experts plant false evidence on your computer in order to blackmail you into paying them. 

McCain told the seniors that if they were being blackmailed, they needed to come straight to the police and report it so that they could investigate. 

Phone number spoofing and AI-generated voices have also become a popular means of tricking older adults into thinking their grandchildren are calling them for money. McCain said never to give out any information over the phone and to call your loved ones directly if you think they may be in trouble. 

Other common scams to be aware of are lottery scams, IRS scams, utility scams, bank examiner scams and counterfeit prescription scams. 

Most of the scams involve threatening jail time or heavy fines unless the person sends money. Other times, the scammer will tell them that they have won a prize or lottery but need to send in taxes and fees to receive the prize. 

To avoid being scammed, the LPD suggests the following:

  • Never sign a blank form or any document you don’t understand
  • Register your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Never send money to “claim a prize”
  • Monitor all charges on your credit card and report anything suspicious
  • Research charities before you donate
  • Don’t trust salespeople who say things like, “You must act now, or the offer won’t be good”

The vendors present included East Alabama Aging Programs, AETNA, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, ASC, Bank of America, BBB, Circle of Care for Families, FBI, Healthcare Solutions, Simpra Advantage and Viva Health.