Talk to loved ones about senior scams on Grandparents Day

When wishing your grandparents a happy Grandparents Day this weekend, it might be a good idea to talk with them about elder scams.

“While we are all targets for scammers, some con artists prey specifically on seniors,” said Michelle Reinen, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Education is the best way to prevent fraud,” so the more information we can share with older friends and family, the less likely it is they’ll fall victim to a scam.

The department has a hotline which can provide seniors with a free bookmark or booklet to help them identify scam operations, spot fraud and navigate tricky consumer issues. The number is 800-422-7128. Seniors can also sign up for consumer alerts by email or text message by calling the hotline or by emailing datcphotline@wi.gov.

Scam artists will commonly call seniors, posing as a family member or grandchild in desperate need of money due to an emergency. Other fraudsters will pose as computer technicians, federal agents or sellers of medical equipment to try to scam the elderly.

Reviewing these simple tips with a loved one might prevent him or her from becoming a victim:

• Never wire money or give the account number and PIN code from a prepaid gift or money card to someone you don’t know. These payment methods are like handing over cash – the chance for recovery is slim to none.

• Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers “spoof” the information to appear as a local number.

• Never engage with an unsolicited sales robocall. Taking any action may cause you to get additional calls. Hang up.

• Never provide personal information like your Social Security number or bank/credit card account numbers on an unsolicited call.

• Always check with a friend or family member before you act on a high-pressure sales pitch.

“Since 2001, elder abuse has increased 160 percent, and Wisconsin’s elderly population will increase 72 percent in the next two decades; we cannot wait to do better for our elderly loved ones,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. “Often, elder abuse victims can feel embarrassed that they were scammed. By letting our elders know that these scams are common, we can lift the stigma about asking for help and resources.”

For information, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wi.gov or contact the Consumer Protection Hotline.