The most infamous scam nowadays might be the “Nigerian prince” scheme, but there are many other fraudulent shakedowns that bilk billions of dollars each year out of unsuspecting seniors, as Hilda Kudaroski found out earlier this year.
While surfing the Internet about six months ago, Kudaroski mistakenly clicked on a pop-up add that funneled her to a computer “hotline specialist” who informed her that her machine was infected with a virus and needed to be fixed.
She spoke to two men, including one who claimed to be a supervisor, and she gave them her credit card information to fix the issue. It was only later she learned the men scammed her, prompting her bank to investigate and refund the purchase.
“I just clicked on the wrong (link). They were so smooth talking,” Kudaroski said. “I’m glad it happened, because it taught me a lesson.”
Kudaroski was one of the nearly four dozen people who spent an hour Thursday morning at Washington Area Senior Center learning about various scams and how to prevent themselves from becoming a victim. The seminar, one of 11 state Sen. Tim Solobay is organizing in Washington and Greene counties with the state attorney general’s office, is designed to inform seniors how to spot a scam or protect themselves.
“Undoubtedly, there are things out there that can hurt you,” Solobay said. “There are people out there who want to hurt some folks. They don’t care about you, your families or your friends. All they care about is making a quick buck.”
Philip Little, an education and outreach specialist with the attorney general’s office, said there are “reoccurring themes” with most scams that try to pull personal information out of unsuspecting victims. Though most people think Social Security and credit card numbers are most at risk, Little noted scammers often want to get hold of other information, such as driver’s license numbers and investment statements.
“Use your head,” Little said. “Think it through before agreeing to something.”
On average, more than 10 million people are scammed out of a total of $58 billion each year, Little said, although he considers those numbers to be low estimates, because many victims are too embarrassed to report the incident.
“You feel like you’ve been betrayed and your privacy invaded,” Little said.
He told people to never trust a Caller ID number on telephones because of “spoofing devices” that can alter information.
He said only give out personal information if you’re the one making the call to a specific charity or company.
Little added people should not carry “store-specific” credit cards in their purses or wallets, but instead take them only on days they’re shopping at those places.
Lottery scams also are prevalent, he said, and he advised people to be skeptical if they haven’t played the specific game or if an upfront payment is required to receive the prize.
The biggest message from Little and Solobay, though, was if someone suspects they’re a victim of a scam, they should contact their bank or authorities immediately.
“You shouldn’t be embarrassed to be talking about it,” Solobay said, “because you might save someone else from it.”