Police warn elderly residents about telephone scams

Lovell Police Chief Nick Lewis issued a “heads up” to elderly residents in the community this week to be on alert for calls from people they don’t know or people posing as a relative who ask them to send money out of the country.

“These are typically scams,” said Lewis, who notes that he has seen numerous cases over the years where local residents have sent thousands of dollars overseas because they were convinced by a caller that it would either help a relative or they would get rich as a result. One local resident even sent $40,000.

Lewis points out that senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” own their home and to have excellent credit. All of these factors make them particularly attractive to con artists.

He also noted that con artists know that the elderly population in general is polite and trusting. Typically they exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone because their generation was raised to believe it is rude to hang up on a caller.

Lewis indicated that elderly people are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.

Lewis encourages anyone who receives a call to contact the department so that the police have an opportunity to warn others about scams that are prevalent.

Lewis said that con artists count on the fact that when an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Scam artists know that often age affects memory, and they are counting on elderly victims to forget details when they provide information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks or months. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details of the scam.

Lewis said senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning and anti-cancer properties.

He also warns that telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and health care products and inexpensive vacations that may be attractive to the elderly who are often on fixed incomes.

“Sadly, once the money has been sent overseas it is impossible to get it back,” said Lewis. “And the problem is so big now that even the Feds are having trouble dealing with it.”

Some of the scams are so sophisticated that they even know names of relatives because they have mined the information from social network pages like Facebook, said Lewis.

A list of the type of scams the Lovell Police Department has been made aware of recently is available at the Lovell Police Department and at the department’s booth at the health fair this weekend.

By Patti Carpenter