Seniors can take steps to avoid victimization

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Criminals never seem to sleep or take time off, especially those who target our senior citizens.

This year, the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division has seen a rise in the number cases involving fraud or financial deception against senior adults. In fact, there has been a nationwide increase in these types of crimes against the senior adult community. Protecting senior citizen’s finances and helping them to avoid becoming a victim of a financial crime is important to me because of the devastation that I have seen it cause. Often, the effects last for many years.

To better protect yourself from being the next victim, I have some tips or guidelines for you to follow:

— Never give out any personal information over the telephone unless you initiate the call.

Identity thieves may call posing as officials from government agencies, banks, or even credit card companies. Thieves will have all kinds of reasons to ask you for personal information, such as account numbers, PIN numbers or even your Social Security number. If you should receive such a call, hang up and call the institution yourself.

— Identity thieves also use the Internet to steal a person’s identity.

The thieves will try to reach you through an email, hoping you will open it and respond to it. Again, make sure not to give out personal information, especially account numbers. My best advice is not to open the email unless it is coming from someone you know or you are familiar with, and even then only if you were expecting it (many scammers will send emails designed to look familiar).

Another means of protection is to keep the anti-virus software on your personal computer current. If and when you dispose of an old computer, remember to use a “wipe” software program to overwrite the entire hard drive. This eliminates any personal information that a potential thief would otherwise be able to retrieve and use against you.

— Another avenue that thieves use to steal your identity is obtaining or accessing information from your debit or credit cards.

Thieves will stand around in shopping areas or close by at ATM machines looking for an opportunity to get your PIN number or, better yet, cause a distraction and steal your debit or credit cards. Remember to carry only essential documents or a limited number of credit cards with you when out and about. Be aware of your surroundings and be wary of anyone close by. Do not carry your Social Security card or birth certificate outside of your home.

One additional circumstance that I have seen many senior adults fall victim to is when their child, or other person trusted to oversee their money, steals from them.

It is so sad to see such a despicable thing happening to a senior citizen. If you have an elderly parent and you are not their caretaker, try to stay in touch with the person who oversees their finances. Ask your parent(s) tough questions about their finances. Monitor their credit report every month.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office at 431-3259.

Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.


agirl_25 3 years, 1 month ago

It is so sad to have identity thieves prey on the elderly and as an elderly person it is fun to be able to turn the tables on them from time to time. My husband gets so angry at me and I have promised that my last scam would be my last. Recently I became the lucky receipient of wonderful news as I am sure many were, that wonderful Lady Caroline from London, whose husband recently died and left her with a fortune of $80 million dollars was trying to find someone to help her transfer funds to the US and she just happened to notice she and I had the last name and she wondered if I would be interested in helping her transfer the funds out of South Africa where they were. Of course it meant a small investment on my part (of course) but that was no problem for my uncle had just died and left me his estate of $2 million (of course) and I would be more than happy to assist her but good news........I was coming to London in a few weeks (for real) on vacation and would be staying in the Paddington district of London (not really...did they think I was a fool) and would love to meet her for tea (not really, but she was lying, so what). I sent my email back to her and let the scam begin..ta da! And what a scam it was. My husband became furious with me....he kept telling me some big burly African man was going to come to hotel and chop my head off (as if I was stupid enough to let the scammer actually know where I was staying in London...duh!!) The emails flew for a few weeks and I had whetted her/his appetite, even got out some old papers from an actual estate transaction when a Will was probated and changed some names and figures, scanned it emailed it to her and showed the lovely Lady Caroline my (fake) net worth and made her drool...(evil grin). .At last Lady Caroline was ready to meet me at Heathrow and was going to send someone to pick me up and one of my dreams was about to come true in a big way. (Altho later during the vacation it would come true in a real way). Do you know how in the movies you always see the people come off the plane and the crowd is there waiting for them and the VIP's have the limousine drivers waiting for them with the big signs held up with their names written on them......like MR.& MRS. SNOBBY FITZHUGH written on it? Well that is on my Bucket List...to be Mrs. Snobby Fitzhugh and to come flying around the corner of the ramp and have the limousine driver holding the sign.....I don't know how long the driver waited ..alas there was no Mrs. Fitzhugh, and Lady Caroline had been had to say the least. A scam is a scam and anyone can pull one for fun or for profit. Mine was for fun and in the end I wrote Lady Caroline or whoever she/he was and told her/him I had sent all the correspondence to the FBI, the Interpol, the Scotland Yard and the Bank of Scotland, who also has a large Internet Fraud Division.


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