Sacto 9-1-1
June 17, 2010
Roseville police offer scam prevention tips for seniors

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

Roseville police are reminding seniors to be alert to financial scams targeting older people.

Police say the most common type of elder abuse law enforcement and victim advocates encounter locally is financial abuse, often perpetrated by professional scam artists.

Common scams include:

* Home and roadside repair scams: A scam artist contacts a homeowner or motorist, points out a previously unnoticed, or invented, repair problem and offers to fix the problem at a discounted rate. Recently in Roseville, an older couple were flagged down by another driver who told them their vehicle was smoking, according to a Police Department news release. The man offered to fix their vehicle at a "discounted rate" of $1,250. He and his companions talked the couple out of $40, then gained access to their home, distracted them and stole jewelry.

In a similar version of the scam, phony home repair people contacted older residents on the pretext of fixing the roof or conducting other unsolicited home repairs, then talked themselves into the homes and stole money and other items.

* The grandparent scam: A scam artist calls a senior citizen, often late at night, posing as a grandchild in trouble in another state or a foreign country. The "grandchild" tells the senior that he or she is in jail or has auto repair problems, and asks the grandparent to wire money.

* Foreign lottery or fund transfer scams: People are told they have won a lottery, even though they may never have entered it. They are told that all they have to do to claim millions of dollars is to wire a few thousand dollars to pay the taxes. Or people may receive an e-mail from a someone claiming to be a former government official in Nigeria asking assistance transferring millions of dollars to the United States, and saying they will be well compensated. People are asked to provide their bank account information so the transfer can be made. Police say some Roseville residents not only fell for the scam but were hounded afterward by the same scammers urging them to send even more money.

Once someone has wired money, or given away cash, police say it is almost impossible to arrest the scam artist, who may be in a foreign country, or to recover the stolen money.

Police also note that older people are sometimes reluctant to talk about their financial affairs with their family, or are too embarrassed to tell anyone that they have been duped.

Laura Conrad, victim advocate for the Placer County District Attorney's Office, offers tips to avoid becoming a victim:

* Before having work done to your home, check a contractor's license number online at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/, or by calling (800) 321-2752. Always get multiple bids, get a written contract and never pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less, upfront.

* Never let strangers, unsolicited "inspectors" or solicitors into your home. Create a barrier between yourself and solicitors with a metal screen door or a security door. Before letting inspectors or repairmen in, verify their ID with their employer.

* Get in the habit of discussing transactions or purchases of more than $1,000 with a trusted family member.

* Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision.

* Register you home and cell phones with the "do not call" national registry at (888) 382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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