Clayton police host seminars to protect seniors against scams

Clayton Police Officer Owen Phillips talked to seniors about scams (Steve Sbraccia/CBS North Carolina)

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) — Younger generations have become used to the idea of cons, scams and cyber-crimes, but a lot of those things are foreign subjects to senior citizens.

In an effort to keep its older residents from getting ripped off, the Clayton Police Department held a series of seminars to help seniors steer clear of bad deals.

There’s lots of information out there about scams, including magazine articles, websites, and news stories which contain lots of valuable pointers. But there’s nothing quite like the impact of hearing about those schemes face-to-face to make you more aware.

“We figure the way technology has been developing, we need to keep our seniors up to date,” said Officer Owen Phillips with the Clayton Police Department, who recently conducted the seminars. Phillips said scammers prey on the elderly because they think they have a lot of money.

“Just last week we had a nice lady who was taken for $5,000 in gift cards to pay for some sort of federal grant she was told she had won,” he said.

By the time police were notified, her cash was already in the hands of an unknown scammer with no way to track him down.

Many seniors aren’t aware their credit cards are vulnerable even if you don’t use them in public.

“I had a credit card hacked into that has only been in my house. I’d used it for only for online shopping,” said Marsha Farello, who attended one of the seminars. Farello was a victim of ID theft from criminals who somehow grabbed her credit card through what officials believe was a phishing scam.

Seniors also learned the new credit cards with RFID chips are vulnerable to electronic pickpockets unless they’re protected. They were shown a simple device to protect an RFID card; it’s a sleeve lined with foil. When an RFID credit card is in this sleeve, the foil blocks signals, preventing the RFID chip from being read remotely so the card information stays safe.

Many seniors were surprised to learn about gas pump skimmers, something they’d never heard of.

“The new thing is skimmers. I told them the technology is easy to put it on gas pumps or ATMs. A lot of people didn’t know about that,” said Phillips.

Philips explained to the seniors that with many of the scams, once the criminals get your money, it’s gone and the chances of it being recovered are just about zero. For many, the lessons learned at the seminars won’t go unheeded.

“I learned to be very careful with my credit cards, with online scams and telephone scams,” said Clayton resident MariAnne Ramsey.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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