Just hang up: Elders learn how to detect scams

  • Roughly 40 people at the South Deerfield Polish American Citizens Club on Tuesday listen to a speaker at a seminar aimed at educating elders on how to avoid phone and email scams. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2019 11:07:06 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD – A Nigerian prince is not eager to share his inheritance with you. Microsoft is not calling you about a rebate.

And your grandchild is almost definitely not in need of bail in a Colombian jail.

Phone and email scams aimed at cheating older people out of their money is not a particularly new problem, but it is one best prevented through education. That’s why the Deerfield Police Department teamed up with South County TRIAD to host a seminar Tuesday to help elders equip themselves with ways of protecting their assets. Most of the roughly 40 guests at the South Deerfield Polish American Citizens Club seemed stunned by the increasingly clever maneuvers scammers use to steal their money or identity.

Two elderly residents living in Deerfield were recently swindled out of a total of $44,000 when they were told over the phone that their grandchildren had been arrested and needed bail money.

Deerfield resident Arlene King raised her hand to say she recently received a scam call from someone claiming to be her grandson in jail and in need of cash. The scariest part was, she knew it was a scam, but the caller really sounded like her grandson, who lives in Rhode Island. King said she asked the caller which grandson he was.

“He said, ‘Oh, Gram, I’m you’re oldest grandson,’” King recalled. “I said, ‘No, you’re not,’ and hung up.”

Deerfield Police Detective Adam Sokoloski shocked the guests by explaining crafty scammers can manipulate recorded audio from specific YouTube channels or social media profiles to sound just like their target’s loved one.

“If you want to sound like Britney Spears, you can do that,” Sokoloski said.

Karen Cartier, the vice president of compliance and CRA officer at Greenfield Savings Bank, advised everyone present to contact a trusted family member if they receive a phone call or email requesting or demanding sensitive financial information. She said the “golden ticket” for scammers is a victim’s date of birth, Social Security number, address, and bank account number.

Cartier said the two most vulnerable demographics for these types of scams are the very young and the elderly. She said older people are “the generation that saved (money).” She said every bank has the duty to ensure cash is withdrawn responsibly.

“Account takeover is the biggest crime we see right now,” she said. “In less time than it takes to steal a car, someone can steal your entire identity and every dime you have, electronically.”

Cartier told people to just hang up on suspicious callers.

Anita Wilson, with the Consumer Protection Unit of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, informed people that phone scammers will play on their victims’ emotions and encourage them to act quickly. 

“Who’s bummed out?” Rachel Senecal, program coordinator for the Elder and Persons with Disabilities Unit of the district attorney’s office, said playfully in the front of the room while raising her hand after Wilson spoke.

Guests were provided with lunch and there was a trivia game with prizes for winners.

Sokoloski told The Recorder he hoped guests would go home and tell their families what they learned.

“We wanted to bring education to our elders right here in Deerfield,” he said, adding that phone and email crimes are incredibly difficult to resolve.

He also urges people who opt to not pay for something in cash to use credit as opposed to debit because there is more protection around credit cards.

Whately Police Chief James A. Sevigne Jr. also attended the event.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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