Tips to protect seniors from scams – San Diego Downtown News

District Attorney News
By Summer Stephan

Every year in San Diego County, seniors are cheated out of millions by bad actors who exploit the vulnerability and trusting nature of our seniors.

No one is immune. The victims are retired military personnel, former educators, medical professionals and even retired members of law enforcement. They are our parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends.

Although the most common scam targeting seniors in San Diegan is the grandparent scam, which convinces seniors that their grandchildren are in danger in a foreign prison and need bail, I would like to provide a series of tips that will help our loved ones not become the next victim.

Shame often prevents an older person from reporting that they have been victimized and we want to stop this mindset in its tracks.

Do not answer unknown calls

Scammers use fake phone numbers to make the call look local. If you don’t know the calling phone number, don’t answer. If the call is important, they will leave a voicemail and you can return the call if you determine it is safe.

Government agencies or utility companies do not call with threats of fines or jail time

If you get a call asking for payment from someone claiming to be from Social Security, law enforcement, court, or the utility company, hang up. This is a common scam where fraudsters will try to convince you to pay or risk fines or jail time.

Gift cards are for giving, not for making payments

Never buy gift cards under the direction of someone you don’t know. Scammers obtain money from elderly victims by asking them to purchase gift cards through iTunes, Amazon, Google, or large retail stores.

Choose a Caregiver Carefully

Never assume that a caregiver has passed a criminal background check, even if they were hired by a reputable agency. Ask the agency directly or ask your caregiver to submit to a background check.

Protect mail and use a shredder

Never let incoming or outgoing mail sit in an unsecured mailbox that the public has access to. Shred mail or financial statements containing identifying information.

The news that you have won a foreign lottery or contest is a scam

Don’t be fooled by a caller or an email saying you’ve won a lottery or competition abroad, but to claim the money you need to pay taxes up front. These are scams.

Don’t give in to hard tactical selling pressure for a loan

If a salesperson offers you services, repairs, or a solar system, don’t sign the documents the same day. Ask for a copy and take the time to review it first. Door-to-door sellers cannot disclose the costs or consequences associated with enrolling in their services, products or loans. A reputable company will be happy to give you time to make a decision without pressure.

Don’t send money to a lover you haven’t met in person

Romance scams are prolific and lead to significant financial losses. It is common for elderly victims to meet love interests online based on fake photos. Eventually, the fake love interest will ask for money and describe an emergency situation. If you’re meeting someone online, arrange a public, safe place to meet before getting too invested in the relationship. Also, never send money.

As district attorney, I am committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the district attorney’s office and the public. I hope these safety tips for consumers and the public have been useful to you. If you have experienced elder abuse, report it to Adult Protective Services: (800) 339-4661.

— District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 29 years to serving justice and victims of crime as a prosecutor. Visit: to contact her.

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