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Santa Barbara Elders Target of Increased Telemarketing Scams

October 13, 2017
By Mandi Nowitz - Web Editor

Telemarketing scams have been an issue that officials have been attempting to combat for years now. Fraudsters have stolen the identities of approximately 15 million people per year as well as extorted billions of dollars. Now, telemarketing scams have skyrocketed and the target is senior citizens, according to the Santa Barbara, California Sheriff’s Department.

Scammers are posing as local residents, sheriff’s deputies, and IRS agents, using official names and local numbers. Vicki Johnson, a retired prosecutor for the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office, made the decision to return upon hearing what was occurring.

Using a two-year grant, Johnson and her team are working with local seniors to help educate, specifically about elder abuse. It includes physical, emotional, and financial neglect as seniors lose approximately three billion dollars per year to telemarketing scams. Fake IRS calls are the main source of scams and ultimate financial loss.

These false callers claim that assets will be frozen and an arrest is possible unless the unknowing victim wires money. The fraudster will offer options that can lead to rectifying the situation, many of which seniors have fallen for. Johnson points out that these calls can be terrifying for their targets.

The scammers will use urgent language, Johnson shares: “‘We have police officers on their way to your home,’ so, they’re very frightening phone calls. These crooks have been getting more and more aggressive with the phone calls.”

A sheriff scam makes seniors believe that they have missed jury duty and funds are almost always demanded, as if it is some sort of ransom. But, the seniors are seemingly picking up on the education: “Now, I get a lot of phone calls from seniors who are reporting this as a scam. They call me up and say, ‘I just want to tell you I got one of those IRS phone calls. I know it’s a scam but I wanted to let you know.’”

Though still a prevalent problem, the education that these senior citizens are receiving is raising some awareness and hopefully eliminating unnecessary fear. Wiring money has become very easy and it is not hard to target a group who may not be in the know with the everyday scams that occur. But, by having a proper awareness of telemarketing scams, it can only help to catch the fraudsters before too much more damage can occur.

Are you aware of the scams around you? 

Edited by Erik Linask