Seniors, watch out for scams

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The Routt County Sheriff's Office is using Older Americans Month to remind people that the elderly often are targeted in scams.

The month of May is designated as Older Americans Month. In its honor, Routt County Sheriff Deputy Elise Andres is asking people to remember that seniors' accessibility, isolation and money make them attractive victims for fraud.

"We want our community to work together to protect our elderly," Andres said.

Seniors can be more accessible to telemarketers or con artists because their physical ailments and retirement mean they're home much of the time.

Loneliness can cause them to reach out to a telemarketer or salesperson for company, establishing the groundwork for a crime.

"Some of them are so lonely, they welcome visitors into their home," Andres said. "The (con artists) prey on people like that."

Con artists can spend hours talking to a potential victim and first may try to secure a small contribution and establish a trusting relationship.

Some seniors do not have regular contact with relatives or friends to discuss finances, a way to double-check they have everything in order. "Some of them don't know how to deal with financial affairs, and they can be victims of crime because of that," Andres said.

The Sheriff's Office is warning of one scam in which a telemarketer calls to say that, as a taxpaying senior, the person has been randomly selected for a federal grant of several thousand dollars.

Before the money can be exchanged, the senior must pay an application fee, which is usually between $250 and $500. The caller then asks the senior for a bank account and routing number to make the direct deposit.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office reports that there is no such program and advises seniors not to pay the fee. It also warns that by giving a bank account number, the con artists can empty an entire account with a single withdrawal.

A few years ago, the Sheriff's Office started the ElderWatch program, which is overseen by Andres and works with seniors to reduce crime and financial exploitation.

Also, the community has form--ed an Adult Protection Team, which is composed of law enforcement agencies, human service agencies and other community organizations.

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