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

December 14, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - Investment scams are a multi-billion-dollar business. Like Christmas presents, they come in many shapes and sizes - and anyone can be taken advantage of, regardless of their age, income or education level.

Seniors are a favorite target of fraudsters for many reasons, says Bob Denz, a spokesman for AARP New Hampshire. With shrinking investments and falling home prices, more older people are anxious about their finances. He says that makes the holidays a good time to check in on parents, grandparents and loved ones.

"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; magazines around or magazine subscriptions, batches of mail, and so forth."

You can remind seniors of some of the red flags, Denz says, even by writing them down and putting the list in a place where they'll see it regularly. He lists some of the most popular phrases from con artists:

"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."

Seniors tend to be more trusting and polite, Denz says, so remind them to never answer the door unless they know who is knocking, get caller ID on their phones and register for the national "Do Not Call List" to avoid phone solicitations. He says to advise seniors never to open e-mail attachments or share personal information with senders they do not know and trust.

It's important to tread lightly with seniors regarding their finances and possible scams, Denz says, but it's also important to start a conversation if you feel they are at risk of being taken advantage of.

More information and tips are online at aarp.org/nh.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH