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BBB: Senior citizens are target of scammers

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

Each year, the Better Business Bureau has received hundreds of phone calls from senior citizens, who been targeted or victimized by scammers, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

Dottie Callina, of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia, Inc., said the types of scams seniors may fall victim to, include: false travel deals, lottery schemes, and financial fraud.

"Financial elder abuse occurs when seniors' banking or credit accounts are exploited by scammers, who take advantage of the vulnerabilities sometimes associated with age," she said.

Callina said the scams can even derive from a person who is close to the elder, such as a family member, caregiver or a friend. Seniors may not realize they've become a victim of financial abuse, or may be too embarrassed to tell someone, or may fear losing their independence by appearing so vulnerable, she said.

"Unfortunately financial elder abuse can be difficult to identify," she said. "It often takes a caring family member, friend or caregiver to recognize that fraud has occurred."

Callina said signs of financial elder abuse include:

* Belongings or property are missing;

* Unusual bank account activity;

* Complaints from seniors about not being able to afford normal purchases;

* Suspicious stories about people who are not normally involved in their personal affairs;

* Unnecessary purchases, often of expensive items;

* Sudden changes to a Power of Attorney or a will;

* Sudden interest in an investment or business opportunity;

* Claims that elders have won a prize, lottery or vacation;

* Numerous unpaid bills or bounced checks.

Officer John Schneller, public information officer for the Clayton County Police Department, said victims of financial elder abuse should contact law enforcement immediately, by dialing 911.

Victims should give emergency dispatchers their address, contact information and a synopsis of the scam.