Schneiderman warns Flushing seniors on fraudsters

By Alex Robinson

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman came to Flushing this week to host a seniors fraud prevention forum with U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing).

The forum was part of Schneiderman’s Smart Seniors program, which educates that age group on the ways confidence tricksters try to take advantage of older people.

“We know the people trying to trick you are coming,” Schneiderman told a room of hundreds of seniors Monday at the Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center. “They’ll come in on your cellphones. They’ll come in on your computers and you have to be prepared for them. The most important thing is to be educated and know what to expect.”

Fraudsters steal more than $3 million every year from seniors, Schneiderman said. Although seniors only make up 15 percent of the country’s population, 30 percent of frauds are committed against the elderly, according to the attorney general, and 14 percent of all seniors in New York have been victims of some type of fraud.

These numbers, however, do not tell the whole story since there are many seniors who fall victim to fraud and do not report the crimes, the attorney general said.

“Many people who are victims of this crime feel embarrassed and don’t want to call it to the attention of our office or the police,” Schneiderman said. “If you don’t report them, they will go after others in your community.”

For every fraud reported, 24 frauds go unreported, according to the attorney general.

Meng recently introduced a bill to crack down on a widespread telephone scam known as spoofing.

In this scheme, fraudsters will scramble their caller ID to trick the victim into thinking a financial institution or government agency is calling them. The con artist will then misrepresent themselves as the victim’s bank, the IRS or credit card company to steal financial information.

If passed, Meng’s legislation would tighten existing regulations to ensure stiff penalties are imposed on those found guilty of spoofing.

“Unfortunately, fraudsters and scammers constantly prey upon our seniors,” Meng said. “These shameful acts make it essential for older adults to do all they can to protect themselves against this type of abuse.”

Schneiderman’s program also teaches seniors common phone scams to be on the lookout for as well as Internet scams and identity theft.

“Be especially careful if someone says you must act right away,” Schneiderman told the seniors. “Never hesitate because you are embarrassed to report you were the victim of a scam or if someone tried to cheat you.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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