Financial fraud

Fulton County Office for Aging Director Andrea Fettinger said she gets about three calls a month from area seniors who’ve fallen victim to financial scams.

“It’s seasonal, it becomes a trend and then it happens in our area,” she said. “I feel like these scammers know to go to certain regions of the state at different times. I would say.”

She said one popular fraud is known as the “grandparent scam.”

“This is when someone calls and says ‘oh grandma please don’t tell mom but I need money’, some people locally thought that was really their grandchild and sent money and was scammed,” she said. “And afterwords they called us and there’s no way to get the money back. The people who are scamming you become anonymous.”

April is National Financial Literacy Month, and as part of that event New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the American Association of Retired People recently collaborated on a news release with tips for seniors to avoid scams

Beth Finkel, the New York state director for AARP, said there were 100,000 official complaints about financial fraud in New York state in 2015.

“We know many more victims are reluctant to come forward,” she stated in the news release. “Fraud is clearly a problem … which just a few years ago had already ballooned into anearly $3 billion-a-year national problem and, as our population ages, is likely to continue growing.”

Gloversville Police Chief Marc Porter said his police department recently posted a warning to seniors on the department’s facebook page about a scam in which callers claim to be from the IRS.

“We were seeing some things with tax season, there were some scams out there. We tried to get out ahead of it. We were seeing the elderly targeted,” Porter said. “We would encourage anyone who has a concern to please give us a call at 773-4514 to speak with an officer, or if they have an opportunity they can pay us a visit.”

Porter said he has tasked a member of his command staff to begin working on financial scam outreach to seniors, to help get the word out about potential scams.

Fettinger said seniors have called to complain to her office about the IRS scam and scam callers claiming to represent Medicare.

“The IRS and Medicare never call you at home,” she said. “People who are afraid that somebody is calling and they think they owe the IRS or they think their Medicare plan is being changed. They never call on the phone. Never give out your personal information to someone you don’t know.”

Tax season can also be a time in which criminals steal financial information people have thrown away in the trash.

Schneiderman and AARP are co-sponsoring 13 “Shred Fest 2016” events across New York state beginning on April 26 to encourage New Yorkers to do a post-tax filing season spring cleaning of sensitive financial and medical documents and bring them to Shred Fest sites, where they will be safely destroyed. The closest shred fest location to the local area will be in Albany at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center, 340 Whitehall Road, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Schneiderman offered these tips to seniors to help avoid scams:

– Never give your personal financial information to someone you don’t know or who contacts you. Often investment schemes are also attempts to steal your identity.

– Private information, including Social Security number, date of birth, and account numbers can all be used to wipe out your accounts.

– Get it in writing. Be sure to ask for written information about the investment and the organization behind the deal. This includes work history, and the background of the salesperson, as well as information about the company itself. Make sure all involved are licensed and the investment is registered. This protects you and reduces chances you’ll misunderstand something. It’s a good idea to put your investing instructions in writing also. Keep records of any and all transactions and conversations.

-Ask questions. If the salesperson refuses to give you information, it is because they are hiding something.

– End the conversation. Don’t be a courtesy victim. Practice saying “no” by simply telling anyone who pressures you, “I never make investing decisions without (getting information in writing, speaking with my accountant, etc.). I will call you if I am still interested. Goodbye.”

Fettinger added another suggestion, she said seniors should have themselves placed on the do not call registry, which they can do by visiting donotcall.gov.