Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DHR Warns Georgia's Seniors to Watch Out for Two Scams

As the economy continues to decline and more people struggle financially, scams are on the rise again – including the resurfacing of the “Grandma Scam.” The Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) wants older adults across the state to be aware, as many scam artists often target seniors. Scam artists will either rely on an old scam with a new twist or create a new scam in order to steal money from those who have worked and saved over the years. Older adults may fall victim to scams because they are home during the day to answer the phone or the door – two primary means of entry for scam artists.

States such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Virginia have witnessed firsthand the re-emergence of the Grandma Scam. A scam artist usually telephones and begins the conversation by saying, “Hi, Grandma, it’s me, your favorite grandchild.” The unsuspecting grandparent will usually respond with a grandchild’s name (i.e., “Johnny…?”). With this information, the caller pretends to be “Johnny” and makes a pitch about being in trouble and in need of money. These scam stories include being in an automobile accident in a rental car, in the hospital or being under arrest and in need of bail money. The imposter grandchild often pleas for the grandparent not to call their parents and promises to pay them back in a few days. Anyone receiving a call like this or with any similarities should hang up.

DHR advises older adults to take steps to verify that the person is who they say they are. Individuals should ask them for information only the grandchild would know or call other family members and confirm the whereabouts of your grandchild.

Another phone scam was recently attempted in Bibb County. A person calls identifying themselves as part of your credit card company fraud department. The caller usually states that they are verifying your account or they have noted some unusual charges on your account and need to verify that you have your card. Then they ask you to read off your credit card number and expiration date. The caller is NOT from the credit card company; they are trying to gain access to your accounts so they can make fraudulent purchases. Never give out account information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you know you are talking to the credit card company directly.

To protect your loved ones, educate your family and friends about these scams. Be wary anytime a request is made by someone who calls you and asks for you to wire them money; it’s a red flag. Wire transfers are hard to trace, so most scams involve money that is wire transferred. If you encounter this scam and want to report the incident, call your local law enforcement agency or contact the Division of Aging Services (DAS) at 1-800-669-8387.

DAS is also offering presentations around the state on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud and scams. To schedule a free presentation in your area, call 404-657-9589.

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