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Pennsylvania Seniors Can Do More to Safeguard Their Money

June 20, 2011

HARRISBURG, Penn. - Opening junk mail, attending a free lunch "seminar" or entering contests may all seem like harmless activities, but they're actually behaviors that put older Pennsylvanians at risk for fraud. Those findings are from a year-long national study that surveyed hundreds of people over age 50 who have fallen victim to some of today's biggest scams.

Study co-author Doug Shadel with AARP says almost two-thirds of older fraud victims did at least two of the most risky behaviors.

"One general finding is that victims tend to expose themselves to sales situations more than the general public does. The victims tend not to take as many preventative steps."

Shadel says a key fraud-fighting technique is to have a "refusal script" ready by the phone.

"If somebody calls you and you don't want to talk to them, you have a sentence or two written down that you can say to them. Put it by your phone and just read it - 'I'm sorry, this is not a good time' or something like that."

The study also found that the problem is much bigger than statistics show, since only one in four victims actually reported to law enforcement that they had been scammed. While it is unfortunate, Shadel points out that people can't get help if they suffer in silence. And he adds that as con artists become more sophisticated, it's difficult to spot every scam and even more important for seniors to take steps to protect their pocketbook.

Other tips he offers include signing up for the federal Do Not Call List, checking references of businesses and waiting 24 hours after any sales pitch before making a purchase.

In Pennsylvania, doctors are now being trained to spot signs of elder fraud in their patients, especially those who may suffer from memory loss or have other issues that make them vulnerable.

The full report is available at www.aarp.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA