On The Lookout: Scammers Target Unsuspecting Seniors - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

On The Lookout: Scammers Target Unsuspecting Seniors

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WICOMICO CO., Md. - Bonnie Moore works at the MAC Center in Salisbury. But when she's away from work, she's cautious of her surroundings.
 
Moore says she's lived her entire life this way.

Recently, the 72-year-old woman got a call from an anonymous person, saying she won a "great trip." All she needed to do was give out her full name, address and checking and savings account.

"That's when I said, 'why don't you hold on a second, my son is here. He's a police man. Why don't I have him give you the information?' And they hung up. [It was] immediately, there was no hesitation," said Moore.
 
Moore almost became a victim of a scam directly targeting seniors.

She's not alone.

According the FBI, many of these crimes go unreported, because senior citizens either "don't know where to go or they're too embarrassed to talk about it."

When asked if the crime is embarrassing for some people, Moore says it is.

"It would be embarrassing for me," said Moore.
 
"The reason that elderly seem to get victimized is it seems like they can become more trusting at some point in time," said Sgt. David Owens of Wicomico Bureau of Investigation.

Across the country, investigators say the older generation is falling victim to healthcare fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs and the sweepstakes scam that nearly swindled Moore out of money. In Wicomico County, Owens says the most common senior-targeted fraud is theft of services, which includes home-improvement work.

"They're not licensed, they probably aren't certified in any kind of way, unless they have been in the past," said Owens. "They are kind of going to do a band aid patch up for you and then you're going to have to pay for not only having it done right, but for undoing what was done wrong."

Owens says there are cases where criminals pose as contractors from reputable companies, looking for quick cash.

Back in August, Delmarva Power experienced a similar case. The utility and electricity company advised users of a Green Dot" scam, where scammers reportedly targeted business owners, telling them their service accounts would be shut off for non-payment unless "the business purchases a 'Green Dot Money Pack' for a specific amount dictated by the scammer."

A spokesperson issued a statement saying, "Delmarva Power advises customers to ask for official photo identification from any person who shows up at their door. Employees from reputable companies, such as Delmarva Power, will carry official company identification cards.

"If proper identification cannot be produced, customers should notify police and the company with whom the individual claims to be associated."

"Some of these people are preying on senior citizens who are in need of immediate assistance," CHEER Community Center deputy director Ken Bock said.

Bock says CHEER advises their residents and any senior that comes through to their activity centers about ongoing scams, including theft of services.
 
Experts say the only way to truly know if you are being scammed is to ask questions, such as, "do you have a home improvement license? How about insurance in case of an accident? Any recommendations for your work?"

If the person is being too pushy and you still feel uncomfortable, Owens says immediately call police to deal with the situation.

"You are entitled to know," said Owens. "You're having something done, you're spending a fairly significant amount of money, you should know that the people have done jobs before, that they have a license, they have insurance that they have a business that's reputable."

"These are some of our more vulnerable citizens," said Bock. "They don't have caregivers or guardians immediately available."

Moore says she feels like she's one of the lucky ones.  She still has a family around.

"I have people who still care about me, people I can talk to. Some of the people don't have family. They're by themselves and are very vulnerable."

If this, or any other crime has happened to you recently, please tell us about it. You can send us messages through Facebook and Twitter, #47lookout.

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