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Seniors Need to Beware of Unscrupulous Scam Artists

February 23, 2012
By SCOTT McCLOSKEY - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Senior citizens are the top targets of scam artists. What are some important issues seniors need to be concerned about when dealing with phone and online scams?

Scam artists work hard every day trying to acquire money from seniors.

They like to target seniors because many are trusting, they're easily accessible at their homes, and many of them have been able to save money, according to information provided by the West Virginia Auditor's Office.

Dave Shelene, field representative with the Auditor's Office, said the office provides free presentations for senior citizen groups about how to safeguard themselves from various scams.

He said the office offers two different programs on how to address scams, Seniors Against Investment Fraud and Internet Safety and Scams.

"Never log into anything from email," is one of the first tips Shelene gives seniors. He said emails can host a number of scam opportunities including "phishing," when a potential scam artist tries to lure seniors into sending them personal account information.

Fact Box

Q: Scams abound these days - many of which are targeted at seniors. How can seniors educate themselves about dealing with phone or online scams?

A: First, be smart. Don't ever give out personal information about yourself or your finances over the phone or via email. And if you are solicited for something that feels like a scam, report it immediately to a local law enforcement agency.

He said in these instances people will receive an email that says something like, "There's a problem with your bank account," or "There's a problem with your Pay Pal account," Shelene advises. He said often the message will request you to "log in here to solve the problem."

"If you log in there, you're sending your login information to a scammer."

He said, in turn, that allows the scam artist to log in as you, which in turn can provide them access to your personal information such as your full name and address, Social Security number, and credit card information.

"They can go into your account and get all that information and become you - they'll steal your identity," Shelene added. "If you don't know who sent you the email, don't open it ... and if you think there is a problem with your account, just shut your email down and call the bank."

Shelene said while phone scams are a "different animal," they are similar in the fact that it's just another way for criminals to get information from unsuspecting seniors or talk them into sending money for a fraudulent scheme.

Shelene recommends that if anyone receives a call asking them to send money to something they're not familiar with, you should just hang up and notify either the state Auditor's Office, the state Attorney General's Office or a local law enforcement agency.

Some tips offered by the West Virginia Securities Commission include:

The Securities Commission recommends that people should not be afraid to report they have been victimized by investment fraud. Securities fraud is against the law in West Virginia.

For more information about scams or to request a presentation for your group, or to receive a schedule of upcoming presentations, call the Auditor's Office toll free at 877-982-9148.

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