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Senior Scams is the Focus as Minnesota's Fraud Fighters Gather Today

September 27, 2011

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Fraud fighters from around the state are gathering in St. Cloud this afternoon for a forum to share ideas and get training on the latest schemes and scams targeting seniors in Minnesota.

AARP Minnesota State Director Amy McDonough says one of the most common types of fraud right now comes by phone, with a focus on health care or Medicare.

"Oftentimes, seniors will get phone calls and someone will pretend to be a state or a federal agency saying that, 'You need to give me some information so I can complete your file.' So one of the major tips we have for seniors is to be very careful about people who call you at home and ask you to give information over the phone."

McDonough says the same type of ploy also continues to clog email in-boxes, along with the lottery-type scams where people are told they've won big, and to collect they just need to send some personal information, or wire some money to cover taxes or shipping.

"And I think that now that we've been more accustomed to seeing so many scams on email, people are generally more leery, but if it's someone older who's just now getting on the Internet, sometimes it can be very confusing to figure out what's real, what's legitimate and what is a scam."

McDonough suggests that, when in doubt, use common sense, noting that your bank or the IRS is not going to lose track of you and your information. Another venue used by scammers is the U.S. mail, and members of the Postal Inspection Service will be on hand this afternoon to share tips.

"Some of the things they see have to do with charity scams. You might get something in the mail that looks like you owe a charity something. Really that's just a way to get you to send them a check, and you don't have to necessarily respond to everything that comes in the mail."

Regardless of whether it comes via the mail carrier, the phone or email, McDonough says it if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, and a good place to double-check that is with the Better Business Bureau.

"They are a really good resource for seniors to call. Check out businesses, to make sure that they're registered, to see if there's been any complaints and once you get in the habit of doing that, you just become a smarter consumer."

This afternoon's forum is to be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud and is free and open to the public.

More details on how to avoid fraud can be found at www.aarp.org

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN