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Senior Center hears fraud protection tips


October 17, 2012
LITTLETON — At the senior center last week, 30 people listened to information on ways to avoid being a victim of fraud. The problem has grown in recent years, with the elderly being targeted in large numbers.

Both Peter Kawonczyk and Littleton Police Chief Paul Smith provided ideas on how to avoid the types of fraud being seen. Smith noted that Littleton is not immune from those looking to prey on senior citizens.

Kawonczyk, a volunteer for the AARP, said that senior citizens are likely to be kind to those asking for money. "We are very trusting," he said, "We're friendly."

Kawonczyk mentioned the case of actor Mickey Rooney, who lost money to family members looking to gain possession of his wealth. "He was scammed by his own family," Kawonczyk said about Rooney's case.

The crowd was informed that about 20 percent of Americans have lost money to fraud schemes.

Kawonczyk said that a type of fraud growing in regularity includes efforts to scare seniors into believing family members are in legal trouble. He mentioned calls that people receive that say a relative is in jail in Mexico. Money is then taken from the unsuspecting person who believes they are helping a relative get out of trouble.

Easy access to personal information is another fraud danger, Kawonczyk said. He said people should shred pre-approved credit offers and loans received through the mail.

Bank statements and other documents that contain personal information should be shred also, rather than thrown in the trash. This can reduce the danger that a person's information will end up being used fraudulently.

Regarding personal information, Smith cautioned people about Facebook postings. Those looking to prey on senior citizens may find useful information on social networking websites, Smith warned. "Your generation is targeted the most," Smith said. "You're very trusting."

Email scams are another danger, Kawonczyk said. "Legitimate companies won't email to ask for your personal information," he noted.

Fake charities can find easy victims among the elderly, Kawonczyk said. People should not donate money over the phone, he said. There are a variety of resources available to learn about charities, the crowd was informed. "Ask questions and take your time," Kawonczyk suggested.

Smith said that people should reach out to the police department if they have suspicions about people who call or show up at their door asking for money. It is better to reach out before becoming a fraud victim, Smith said. With limited resources, law enforcement agencies may not be able to prosecute those who commit fraud.

Kawonczyk provided a number of websites that can assist people. Places to check out charities are www.charitynavigator.org or www.bbb.org. General information on identity theft is at www.idtheftcenter.org.

Gilford Well
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
PArkerVillager Internal Page
Coos County Department of Corr
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