Queens councilwomen to hold scam prevention workshop for seniors

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Councilwomen Sandra Ung and Linda Lee will be holding a bilingual virtual workshop for seniors on Wednesday, Aug. 24, to help prevent them from being scammed.

The event will run from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and be spoken in English and Mandarin. Those interested in attending can register online for the workshop.

Among those scheduled to present at the virtual workshop are representatives from Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz’s Office, the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) and the NYPD. DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga will also join the workshop during an in-person visit with seniors at the Benjamin Rosenthal Selfhelp Innovative Senior Center in Flushing.

“Senior citizens have always been key targets for scammers, whether it is tricking them into sharing their personal information or outright stealing their money,” Ung said. “Unfortunately, the social isolation created by the pandemic has made our senior citizens even more vulnerable, as they are more inclined to engage with strangers on the telephone or spend more time online. I want to thank Council member Linda Lee, District Attorney Melinda Katz’s Office and DCWP and NYPD for agreeing to host this workshop to generate awareness about this issue and hopefully prevent our older adults from becoming victims in the first place.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, senior citizens are less likely to report when they have been the victim of fraud, making them a favorite target for scammers. Other factors that play a role in scammers targeting them is a perception that seniors have more wealth and a desire to care for family members and loved ones. These perceptions have led to many scammers calling seniors and pretending to be a grandchild in distress or a Medicare representative asking for personal information.

Other online scams targeted at seniors include fake charities, rogue online storefronts and tech support scams. Yet another frequent method is calling them and pretending to be a romantic interest or friend and then asking for money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, people lost $1.3 billion to online romance scams in 2021. The average median loss for people over 70 years of age was $9,000, compared to just $750 for those ages 18 to 29.

“The internet and technology have revolutionized the way we communicate, conduct business and go about our everyday lives, but has also opened up new avenues for scammers and thieves to get hold of our personal information,” Lee said. “Our seniors have often been the victims of fraud, particularly during the pandemic as a result of increased social isolation. I am proud to work alongside Council member Sandra Ung, Queens DA Katz, and my colleagues in government to provide vital guidance and resources needed to identify common scam tactics to protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”