7 On Your Side

Scammers set sights on elderly residents

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's a common scam targeting anyone with a car. But when the scammers contacted an elderly Walnut Creek woman, she set off alarm bells.

Joanne Archer does a pretty good job keeping up with the news. It's that attention to what's going on around her that saved her from being scammed.

She received an urgent letter that said it was the second attempt, requested immediate action, and said it was time sensitive material. All words that rightfully made her suspicious.

"There was something about it and I think I may have fallen for this a few years ago," Archer said.

The letter told her her auto warranty had expired and she needed to act now to remain protected. She called her Honda dealership and it confirmed the letter was not from them. That was something she knew all along.

"I've been watching Michael Finney for several years and little by little I've been learning things that we need to do to protect ourselves," Archer said.

The latest statistics show reports of elder abuse have increased nearly 15 percent in the last eight years with more than 1,800 cases reported last year alone in Contra Costa County.

Shirely Krohn is with the California Senior Legislature, an advocacy group of senior citizens to better protect seniors, "If we can put the energy that they put into this business of theirs by scamming the elderly and put it into more worthwhile causes, we'd be a much better society," Krohn said.

Advocates say the best protection for seniors is greater education and constant interaction with family and friends.

"Isolation is one of the biggest things that create the environment for this to occur," said Eloise Sotelo with Contra Costa County's Adult Protective Services. "Just their loneliness, it increases their vulnerability hugely."

Sotelo says the sad truth is many of those who take advantage of the elderly are those closest to them.

"It's very sad, Sotelo said. "The saddest thing about elder abuse is that the people who are the perpetrators are frequently the people that they are closest to, the people that care for them."

It's also the trusting nature of seniors that can leave them open to fraud.

"The denial around people taking advantage of them is huge," Krohn said. "But it does happen and it happens all the time."

Archer adds, "That's something that seniors have to really watch and be careful about."

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Tags:
walnut creek, contra costa county, scam, seniors, crime, 7 on your side, michael finney
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