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Supervisor Bosworth & District Attorney Rice Join to Educate Seniors on Avoiding Scams

September 18, 2014
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Supervisor Bosworth & District Attorney Rice Join to Educate Seniors on Avoiding Scams

North Hempstead, NY – Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice joined forces on September 16 to educate more than 150 members of the New Hyde Park Leisure Group on how to avoid many of the scams that target mature citizens. DA Rice’s staff made a presentation at Clinton G. Martin Park during the group’s weekly meeting highlighting dozens of scams that try to part seniors and their money.

“Criminals and those who want to take advantage of society’s most vulnerable citizens have always been around,” said Supervisor Bosworth, “but today it seems that criminals have found dozens of new ways to try and separate you from your money. District Attorney Rice and her staff empowered all of us here today by educating us about how to recognize, react to and report a scam. I know that the members of the New Hyde Park Leisure Group found the information very useful.”

Michael Rubertone of New Hyde Park said “The presentation was outstanding. I did not know that I could get free credit reports,” he said.

Annmarie Matale of New Hyde Park said she found the information about reverse mortgage scams “very useful.”

“Seniors deserve better than to be cheated out of their money by scammers looking to make a quick buck. That’s why I’m working not only to hold these criminals accountable, but also to get the word out about these scams to seniors so that they can hopefully avoid becoming a victim in the first place,” DA Rice said. “I would like to thank Supervisor Bosworth and the Town of North Hempstead for organizing this important event.”

Diane Peress, Chief of the Economic Crimes Bureau and Warren Thurer, Chief of the Criminal Complaints Unit of the Government and Consumer Frauds Bureau highlighted more than two dozen scams and how to recognize them and avoid being victimized.

Chief Peress said that with more than 12% of the population over 65, seniors are victimized for more than 35% of financial crimes. Seniors are attractive targets for several reasons. Senior citizens have assets, such as savings, home equity, pensions and personal property. They are often at home when scammers call or stop by. They are part of a generation raised to be helpful and charitable and trusting. They may not report that they have been defrauded out of embarrassment or to avoid the appearance that they are unable to take care of their financial affairs. Some seniors make poor witnesses due to memory loss or other weaknesses. Seniors often rely on outsiders and caregivers to help with their infirm spouses or relatives.

Seniors were urged to be extremely cautious when using ATMs and learned how to be vigilant regarding the use of “skimmers.” Chief Peress stressed the importance of protecting one’s PIN number password when using ATMs by covering the keypad with one’s hand, a piece of paper, or some other item and to avoid ever using an ATM that is not affiliated with a bank.

Chief Peress said, “Because credit card and debit card numbers are being stolen in so many ways, always verify and check your bank statements and credit card bills for withdrawals, purchases and other transactions you did not make. Run your credit report- the free one you are entitled to as a NYS resident- on a regular basis and especially in advance of a major event such as purchasing a new home.” She also advised not to use the same password for one’s email account and financial accounts.

Among the other scams emphasized was the “relative in distress” scam in which the victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be a friend of a grandchild or an email from someone claiming to be the grandchild, and then tells them to wire bail money because the grandchild has been arrested. The scammers get the personal information that makes them sound credible from the Internet. The computer can be an evil tool when used for crime. The scammers count on the caring grandparents to send the money, with few questions asked.

Chief Thurer exposed many of the “sweepstakes” swindles and he “red-flagged” a whole list of phone calls from scammers that should never be trusted. These include calls from people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, Microsoft, a host of charities and utility companies that are all just looking to get personal information in order to steal identities or to convince you to wire money.

“Never rely on what people tell you,” he said. He addressed the recent cases of criminals posing as utility workers, home contractors, IRS agents or Microsoft employees. “Again, don’t rely. Verify,” he said “For example, call the utility company. In the case of a contractor, call the Nassau County Consumer Affairs Department.”

He also mentioned “distraction crimes” in which two or more criminals working together distract the homeowner while the other enters the house and steals personal property from them. For example, in a recent Nassau County case, homeowners were asked to step aside and look at yard work while one of the criminals went inside their home and stole cash. “Keep the door locked and ask the individual to leave materials at the door or in the mailbox and tell them you’ll get back to them,” said Chief Thurer.

Some helpful sites to visit for more information: www.seniorscamwatch.org ; aarp.org; stopfraud.gov; and snoopes.com.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth introduces District Attorney Kathleen Rice at the New Hyde Park Leisure Club, where the DA’s office made a presentation about how to avoid scams.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice listens to the concerns of resident and New Hyde Park Leisure Club member Audrey Marino. From left are DA Rice, Town Councilman Peter Zuckerman, Marino and Shams Tarek, the DA’s Director of Communications.

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