Seniors Get a Lesson in Scams

Created: 03/06/2014 8:00 PM
By: Hannah Tran

(ABC 6 News) -- Annette Burt came to the senior center today because of a phone call years ago.

"I got a call from Madrid, Spain, from someone pretending to be my grandson who lives in Sweden," said Burt, a Rochester senior who's been victimized for fraud in the past.

The caller asked Annette for money, "it was very convincing, it pulled at my heartstrings."

She is one of many seniors in Minnesota who have experienced fraud multiple times. The issue is not going away and the elderly are especially at risk.

"Scam artists are most definitely focused on older adults and seniors," said Jay Haapala, a representative of Watch Fraud Network.

Haapala spoke to Rochester seniors today about some tell-tale signs of fraud, one of which is urgency. He's one of the first of many people in the nation to talk about a newly-formed organization called Watch Fraud Network, a national source for reporting fraud. There are many different tactics that scammers use. They will sometimes tell seniors a product is scarce or convince them to act now. They will use just about any way to communicate to seniors.

"Some of the reasons for that are new technologies," said Haapala.

The universal popularity and use of smartphones are changing technology at a rapid pace. This is also changing the types of fraud out there as well.

"They're on the cutting edge, this is their 9-5 job. It's around the clock. They're not just isolated incidents," said Haapala.

Meaning, scammers tend to work in groups, rather than alone, but these seniors are here together to gain awareness.

"We gotta be careful with what we do with our identities," said Dale Michaelson, another fraud victim.

Seniors at the meeting hope to no longer be the victims, but become watchdogs instead.