I recently attended a forum on elder abuse at the Jocelyn Center in Palm Desert and was surprised to learn that scams and cons targeting seniors fall under the category of elder abuse.

Geri Crippen Richardson of the county C.A.R.E. Program (Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly) stated that the Coachella Valley has more reports of sweepstakes fraud than all of the other districts combined. Our valley is considered an affluent retirement community, but those conducting fraud don’t care whether you are earning $600 a month or $6 million. They are out to get whatever they can.

Fraud may come through the mail, the internet, over the phone and in person. People calling you have a script, with alternative answers for whatever your response may be. The longer you stay on the phone with them, the more information they are likely to get from you. Richardson emphasized that it is important to do your due diligence before you hand over any money in any aspect of your life.

Bob Elias of the Jocelyn Center added that a lot of seniors don’t want people to know they have made a mistake, so they will not report situations which could be harmful physically or financially to them.

A member of the audience shared a phone call she had received the week before. The caller sounded very angry, stating she was with the IRS and the member owed them $6,000. The caller gave her a phone number to call back, which she gave to a staff member at the Jocelyn Center. This is the time to call C.A.R.E., Adult Protective Services or Law Enforcement. They will follow up with the information. The IRS does not call on the telephone; they will send you information in the mail.

Remember scammers operate with a fear factor, telling you that you may be sued or jailed, or that a family member may be in trouble if you do not provide the funds requested. Research what you can and talk with someone you trust before making any decisions.

You may have recently read about post office boxes being broken into. The people doing this are looking for items which could result in identity theft.

If you have a credit card offer, they steal the form, put the card address as their own, but keep it in your name. You don’t discover this until you hear from the credit card company.

Bob Elias began the day with some simple, yet important advice: “We are each other’s protectors. Get to know your neighbors, be a kind neighbor, watch who comes and goes into their homes.” After hearing about the growing number of scams, and the fraud which may occur anywhere, this is the best way to help keep ourselves, and our community members, safe.

If you suspect fraud, you are encouraged to reach out to Adult Protective Services (800) 491.7123 or the C.A.R.E. Program (800) 476.7506. For more information on Joslyn Center programs, visit www.JoclynCenter.org or call (760) 340.3220.

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