H-SANTA MARIA

Sep 23, 2013 7:08 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

Scam targets senior citizens on the Central Coast

A Santa Barbara County prosecutor is touring the Central Coast warning citizens about scams and letting them know how they can protect themselves.

Scammers are going after senior citizens.

The crimes range from identity theft, to telemarketing scams, and internet and insurance fraud.

"I started getting bills that weren't me. Getting credit card statements that weren't me and seeing charges that weren't me," said Julie Seals.

She had her identity stolen ten years ago.

"I had to jump through major hoops to get it back," said Seals.

She says it's also happened to her parents, which is why she came to this information meeting to find out how she can protect them.

"This happens more often than you might imagine," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Vicki Johnson.

She says the financial abuse of senior citizens is getting out of hand.

"We estimate 60 to 90 percent of financial abuse perpetrators against seniors is by family members and caretakers," said Johnson.

But the most common scam in the county is something called the grandparents scheme

"The senior will get a phone call usually in the early hours of the morning where they perhaps are not feeling too clearly and the person on the other end of the phone will say 'grandma is that you' and of course if this person has grandchildren they'll respond, ‘Jeff is that you? Yes, grandma it's me and I'm in trouble,"' said Johnson.

Jonson says these cases are difficult to prosecute because it's hard to trace the scammer, so the solution is education.

Johnson says there are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.

A warning sign is if the person asks you to wire money.

She says never transfer money.

Verify who is on the phone and stall.

If the person says they are a family member, call them at their number or call their parents.
The meeting was put on by the North Santa Barbara County Manufactured Homeowners Team which provides organized representation and education for seniors.

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