Resources can help seniors avoid scams

WASHINGTON — They’re quick, they’re clever and they’re convincing. And they’re targeting senior citizens. Scam artists are hard at work in our area.

Eric Friedman, Director of Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Affairs says, “It doesn’t have to work every time, but they have to be convincing.” Evidently, they are.

Montgomery County police recently reported two cases in which elderly residents were fleeced after being approached in parking lots.

One 77-year-old man was duped into withdrawing $10,000 in cash after being “challenged” to prove that banks were trustworthy. Sadly for him, the men he thought he was helping were anything but trustworthy. Police say a woman was also talked out of $1,700 in cash.

Friedman says the elderly are often targeted because they tend to be more trusting and are less likely to walk away or hang up on anyone asking for their help. And that’s often the first thing a con artist will do to gain the trust of the intended victim: ask for help.

But Friedman says by far the most common and successful ripoff tactic is the phony home improvement scam. Someone shows up at the home of an elderly resident, tells them they’ve done work on several homes in the area and points to a few things around the house that need work. In no time, they may have convinced a resident to write a fat check for work that will never be done.

Shaking his head, Friedman says that he’s seen an all-too-common thread: “I cannot believe how many people hired a home improvement contractor, gave their money to do a job, and all they had was a business card.” Often, after the check was written the contractor and the money disappeared.

To avoid getting taken advantage of, Friedman says, do your homework. Never give out financial information or hand over your money unless you know who you are dealing with at the time.

And if you have parents or grandparents you are worried about, work with them to safeguard their finances. Many banks train staff to be alert to sudden high-dollar withdrawals, but others may not.

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