What is a Schemes, Scams & Rip-offs consumer protection seminar? It is sound, up-to-date advice from the law enforcement, public safety and consumer protection professionals who see fraud, and the damage it causes, first-hand.
"Not only am I going to talk about fraud, I'm a magnet for fraud." That's how California Bureau of Real Estate Commissioner Wayne Bell introduced himself to a group of senior citizens at the Pioneer House Senior Retirement Center in Sacramento on Saturday, October 25, 2014.
He served on a panel of presenters which included California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) Unit A Vice President Kenny Ehrman, Department of Insurance Representative Isabel Barajas and State Bar of California Trustee Joanna Mendoza.
Seniors were apprised of the latest scams involving mortgage, rental property, legal services and insurance. They learned about a realm of financial crimes and identity theft and ways in which they can protect themselves.
"Being a victim of identity theft has nothing to do with your intelligence, your education, your mental faculties, your awareness or your age," Ehrman told the senior citizens. "Many seniors don't want to report they've been scammed or that they've been a victim of fraud because they fear family members might encroach on their independence. Some seniors feel foolish for having been 'taken.' Identity theft happens to everybody and it happens all the time."
Seniors at the seminar were given tips on how to protect their identity and to prevent fraud. They were advised to protect their social security number, driver license number, address, date of birth and mother's maiden name. The panel of presenters advised seniors to say no, hang up the phone, don't answer the door, and not to leave identifying information in mail boxes.
"Ask questions, " instructed Ehrman. "If someone is calling about your water bill and asking for your date of birth, say, 'if you're calling about my water bill why do you need to know my date of birth, why don't you tell me your mother's maiden name?' If someone comes to your door, always ask to see I-D."
The group was warned, those who commit fraud and target seniors come in all shapes and sizes. They could be strangers, family members or caretakers. They are people who see seniors as easy targets with comfortable nest eggs ripe for the picking.
"Be skeptical. Be vigilant. Do your diligence, do your homework, hopefully you won't be victimized," said Bell.