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'Tis Scam Season for MA Seniors - Tips to Help Protect Them

December 19, 2011

BOSTON - Investment scams are a multibillion-dollar business - and like Christmas presents, they come in many shapes and sizes. Anyone can be taken advantage of, regardless of their age, income or education level.

Bob Denz, a spokesman for AARP, says senior citizens are a favorite target of fraudsters, especially now, with shrinking investments and falling home prices making more and more older people anxious about their finances. It's an important issue in Massachusetts, where nearly 14 percent of the population is over age 65.

The holidays are a good time to check in on parents, grandparents and loved ones, he says.

"When you're at their home, take a look around for warning signs: lots of phone call messages, lots of requests to call back, solicitations, many magazines around or magazine subscription come-ons, batches of mail and so forth."

Denz warns people to tread lightly with seniors regarding their finances and possible scams, but says it's also important to start the conversation if they are at risk of being taken advantage of. Denz suggests reminding seniors of some red flags, even writing them down and putting the list in a place where they'll see it regularly.

Some of the most popular phrases used by con artists, he says, are: "Your profit is guaranteed;" "amazingly high rate of return;" "There's no risk;" "You can get in on the ground floor and get in now, because this is an offer that won't be here tomorrow;" "I'll get you the paperwork later! Just make out a check to me;" and "You would be a fool to pass this one up."

Because many seniors tend to be trusting and polite, Dentz says to remind them to never answer the door unless they know who is knocking; to get caller ID on their phone; and to register for the national "Do Not Call List" to avoid phone solicitations. When it comes to email, he adds, advise them never to open attachments or share personal information with senders they do not know and trust.

More information and safety tips can be found at www.aarp.org.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MA