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Tips for Senior Citizens to Avoid Telephone Scams

Scammers claim to be a police officer trying to help a senior's grandchild: don't buy it, experts say.

Telephone scams on senior citizens are on the rise, sometimes aided by social media or other technology, officials say.

Does this report from the Daily Herald.com sound familiar? If it doesn't, pay attention because it could cost you money:

Recently an 85-year-old resident received a phone call from a person claiming to be a police officer who advised that the senior’s grandchild was in trouble and needed cash.

The senior was instructed to withdraw $2,400 from the bank and send it via Western Union to a person in a South American country.

After the transaction was completed, the same person called the senior again with instructions to send another $2,400. The senior again complied.

A third call was received instructing the senior to use the drive-through lane at their bank and obtain a credit advance. 

Fortunately, the bank manager realized it was the senior’s third visit for a large withdrawal and contacted police because she was concerned for the welfare of the senior.

This type of scam has become more common as young people publish their vacation plans online on websites like Facebook. Dishonest persons can use that knowledge to trick grandparents who also know their grandchild may be traveling.

WHAT TO DO 

When the call comes, "Hi, Grandma, it’s me . . ." Santa Clara county deputy district attorney Janet Berry says:

* DO NOT BE RUSHED 

* Leave the kid in jail

* Get off the phone 

* Call the family and friends to find out where the grandchild really is 

* Again, DO NOT BE RUSHED 

With this type of telephone scam, the caller plays on the emotions of a senior who is concerned that a grandchild is in trouble. 

"If you receive such a call, be suspicious, assume it's a scam, especially if the caller warns you not to tell anyone. Contact relatives first to find out whether someone in the family really is in danger or requires assistance," Berry says.

In addition, she says if you have an older relative, there are several "Red Flags" to watch for that may indicate your loved one either has a problem, or is more likely to become a victim.

* Elder seem confused, anxious or depressed? 

* Frightened of anyone? Can’t come to phone? 

* Losing weight, not bathing? 

* New “friend”?

* Increase in debts 

* Mail piling up or missing (redirected?)

* Change in signature or living situation

* Cognitive impairment

* Giving money away, changes in banking habits, debit cards or missing checks

* Not getting meds? 

* Bruises, anything broken, emergency room trips

"Always contact the police before sending any money to an unknown individual, for any reason," Berry says. "And never, ever, give your Social Security, or bank account numbers, to anyone on the phone who has made an unsolicited call to you.

"Both deputy district attorney Cherie Bourlard and I are committed to alerting the community to all scams involving seniors. The only way we can stop these criminals is if you are alert and report any attempts to defraud you."

After a recent presentation at the , Berry left copies of the free brochure, Financial Abuse . . . It Can Happen To Anyone, which contains additional information of other scams aimed at senior citizens. 

The brochures are still available at the Senior Center.

"Finally, do not open your door to anyone you do not know regardless of how convincing a story they may tell you," Berry cautions. "If you are in doubt about someone claiming to be a police officer, or public utility worker, do not open your door and call 911. Better to err on the side of caution."

For help, call these numbers:

1-855-DA ELDER

1-855-323-5337

Adult Protective Services 408-975-4900

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