SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Online scammers are increasingly targeting senior citizens in an effort to exploit people for money and identity theft. During the holidays, it’s even more important for consumers to protect themselves from possible scams.
“There is a list of scams as long as my arm. But it seems the ones we hear about most often have to do with taxes, warrants, jury duty, or family members who are in trouble," says Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator.
Prator and Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart held a question and answer session on Thursday to share with senior citizens some tips on how to spot scams and keep their money safe.
Here are five ways seniors can stay safe from scams:
Don’t always assume that those close to you have your best interest at heart, says Stewart.
“My advice to you is that any time someone comes up to you, tell them they need to talk to your lawyer or another trusted family member.”
Stewart says that it’s important that seniors not isolate themselves, because there is strength in numbers. He says church or other community groups can be a good way to be among other people who are like you.
Stewart says you should never talk to people about money issues over the phone. Instead, if someone calls you regarding a financial matter, you should always ask to see something in writing.
“I know you’ve been raised to be nice all your life,” says Stewart. “But sometimes you can’t be nice. Don’t carry on a conversation [over the phone]. Just stop them and tell them to send you something in writing and hang up the phone.”
Sheriff Prator says consumers should take advantage of the Caddo-Shreveport Financial Crimes Unit, which is there to help people who may have fallen victim to a scam.
“[Scammers] are so good at making you think that they are who they are and that they will help you out,” says Prator.
“Don’t try to sort things out yourself. If you see something suspicious that you don’t believe call us. Be careful because there are a bunch of fools out there that want to take what you’ve worked hard to get." he added.
Stewart says even though you may prefer to receive paper checks in the mail, it’s safer to have the money go straight into your bank account.
“Nowadays it makes you a target,” warns Stewart.
Captain Bobby Herron with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office says there are many types of scams out there. Two common ones in the area now are the “warrant scam” and the “grandchild scam”
The so-called warrant scam is where criminals call you claiming that you have a warrant for your arrest and that you need to pay money.
“There sheriff’s office and the police department will not call you over the phone, and we certainly won’t ask you for money over the phone,” says Herron.
The other scheme happens when potential thieves contact someone to tell them a family member is in harms way and needs help.
“People act so quickly on this and they front the money to help that loved one, and they don’t think to stop and call the police or to call that loved one. We see that scam a lot,” Herron warned.
Most importantly, officials say that everyone should be leery of any request to wire money.
“If you’re asked to wire money, don’t do it. If it involves you putting money on a money card or wire money, it’s a scam,” says Herron.