Don’t Become a Victim! Local Seniors Warned of Scams and Fraudulent Efforts to Steal Their Money

Trevor Phipps

 The Woodland Park Senior Organization recently sponsored an expo, featuring many vendors and much information for local seniors, one of the biggest demographic groups now in the area.

Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams kicked off the event by telling personal stories of challenges his family has faced due to aging loved ones and talked about how life changes as people age.

Teller County Sheriff Commander Lad Sullivan then took the floor to talk about frauds and scams, a presentation that commanded much attention. The commander brought up examples of ways senior citizens have been scammed recently to help older Americans to be prepared.

Williams started his introduction speech by giving statistics of how many seniors now reside in the country, state and county in  emphasizing the importance of senior citizen-related services. “Today in Colorado there are 5.8 million Coloradans,” Williams said. “Out of the 5.8 million, 1.5 million or 30 percent of Colorado are over the age of 50. And about 17 percent is above the age of 65. The last 10 mortgages that were given in Woodland Park all went to people 65 and older. So ,it isn’t a theory, it’s the reality for Teller County. The average person moving to Teller County today is over 50 years old and he or she has a least two pre-existing medical conditions.”

Common Scams

Commander Sullivan then  discussed frauds, scams, and exploitations. He said that with the new technology out there today, there are several ways people out there try to scam others.

Sullivan first talked about ways people try to scam others out of money using fraudulent e-mails. He gave examples of fake logos from companies like PayPal that look close to the real corporation’s logo but not exactly.

“You will get an e-mail or a text saying that it is Wells Fargo asking you to validate a $292 charge in San Antonio, Texas login here,” Sullivan said. “But when you login there you are not going to Wells Fargo, you are going to some scam site where you put your information in. Well guess what? You just gave them your name, your date of birth, your social security number and bad guys now have it all.”

He also talked about how companies take advantage of people when storms and natural disasters occur. “Don’t ever believe anyone that comes to your door. They will want money up front without ever doing any work,” Sullivan said. “You don’t solicit them they start soliciting you. They want your information or your money. Don’t ever give information or money to people like that.”

Sullivan then talked about romance scams. He brought up a few stories he said he found with a quick search on the internet. One headline was about a 36 year old woman who stole $2.8 million from a Holocaust survivor.

Sullivan said that if people want to get into a relationship over the internet, they need to listen to what the other person is saying. He said some scammers will say they are stranded in another country and they will ask to get sent money.

He also talked about funeral scams where people will play off emotions and try to get money. He brought up a personal story of how a funeral home told him that his father wanted a $10,000 casket.

“Really, that was a big rip-off, they were just trying to get money out of us,” Sullivan stated. “Don’t let people play on your emotions and your sadness.”

The commander also brought up different types of telemarketing scams. He warned attendees to not answer their phone if it is a number they don’t recognize.

“One of the big things they do out there right now is when you say ‘hello’ they say ‘can you hear me?’ And then what’s your response? ‘Yes,’” the commander explained. “Whatever scam that is, they now have your voice recorded saying ‘yes.’ So, when they go to a website to charge something, it will pop up on the computer and say ‘do you authorize this?’ And there’s your voice saying ‘yes.’”

He then cautioned the senior citizen crowd to never give anyone personal information over the phone no matter what they may say. He brought up the grandparent scam where someone calls and claims to be a grandchild in need.

They will sometimes say that they are in jail in a state like Texas and that they need money sent to them for bail. The commander said that one way to tell if it is a scam is that the scammer will say things like, “Please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”

After Sullivan’s speech, the expo’s attendees were invited to check out the various vendor booths. The expo then had a number of other speakers discussing different topics throughout the day.

Valerie Belding gave a “what the heck grows up here” presentation. Teller County Office of Emergency Management Director Jay Teague talked about emergency preparedness, followed by Brandon Schaff speaking on technology and isolation.