By LILY TINOCO and SARAH SHMERLING
A local senior was nearly scammed out of $8,000 when he received a phone call that his grandson was in jail and bail needed to be paid.
He explained that they got a hold of him on the phone and the voice that came on sounded like his grandson, adding that he is hearing impaired so it’s hard to distinguish different voices.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, had all of the information ready to go, including routing numbers and a number to call a public defender, when he thought to call his daughter who told him that his grandson was at work, not in jail.
At this point, the man explained, it became evident that this was a scam.
A nearly-50-year resident of the Palisades, he said that nothing like this has ever happened before, but as the number of handicapped parking spaces grow, so does the threat of senior residents being scammed in similar situations.
Adrienne Omansky, director and founder of Stop Senior Scams Acting Program, said scams have become more prevalent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Seniors are more likely to be socially isolated and are prime targets,” Omansky explained to the Palisadian-Post. “They are being victimized … and we are getting reports every week of different scams.”
The SSSAP is a Los Angeles-based, 11-year-old, peer-to-peer education program that uses theater to educate elder individuals about fraud and protection. It is composed of all senior volunteers, most of who have been victims of senior fraud themselves.
Omansky said a few of the most prevalent scams are robo-calls, sweepstakes, telehealth fraud and hospice care, and a common grandparent scam.
There is also a romance scam, where scammers create fake profiles and establish an online relationship with a victim, only to gain their trust and form a story about needing money. Then they take the money and cut off any form of communication with the victim.
And there is an IRS scam, where scammers pose as IRS agents and call, send emails or letters to victims claiming they owe the IRS money. Scammers often tell the victim to buy prepaid debit or gift cards, wire money and more.
“Never give out personal information [to] anyone unless you verify legitimacy,” Omansky said. “[The] government will never ask for your social security or Medicare numbers over the phone or internet.
“Do not pay money in order to claim a prize. Delete emails from senders that you do not recognize. Remember that scammers often disguise their real numbers using fake caller IDs … Do not make quick decisions out of fear.”
Due to the pandemic, SSSAP is educating seniors with videos, and Omansky shared that the team is looking forward to the day they can return their program to the Palisades Senior Alliance. SSSAP last collaborated with the Palisades Senior Alliance summer 2019, where they performed for the seniors.
“It was just wonderful… they’re very up on information and really enjoyed our program and asked us a lot of questions,” Omansky said. “Our program is really designed not only to use theater and entertain on these scams, but to really educate and give [seniors] where to report the scams as well and what to look for.”
Omansky said it is important for seniors to report all suspected scams to the Federal Trade Commision for investigation and to bring justice with law enforcement partners.
For more information, Omansky can be reached at SSSAP4U@gmail.com.
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