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Tewksbury PD Warns of Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Losses totaling $45,000 have been reported in Tewksbury; nationwide in 2022, more than 88,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $3.1 billion

In the past two weeks, Tewksbury Police have had two citizens victimized by scams. One loss was over $30,000, another one was $15,000. In one case, the scammer stated that the victim’s grandchild was in jail. The other was an overbilling scam, where a criminal asks for personal and financial information, ostensibly to provide a refund.

Senior citizens are the main targets of financial scams — people older than 60 were defrauded of nearly $1.7 billion in 2021, with that number rising 84% in 2022, to $3.1 billion, according to the FBI. And actual losses are likely higher, say experts, because seniors may be reluctant to tell anyone they were tricked for fear of seeming foolish or losing control of their finances. Massachusetts was No. 18 in scams, and the rise of cryptocurrency has opened new avenues for criminals.

TPD urges all residents to never wire money, provide cash or give out financial information. If you get a call or text from a bank, or a courier like UPS, saying that there was an issue with a package and they ask you for information, do not give it. It is a scam.

When in doubt, ask the caller for a number to call them back, then call the TBD at (978) 851-7373 or, if it’s an emergency, 911.

AARP also has a site with news on current scams and maintains a Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., helpline at 877-908-3360. The federal government offers the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-372-8311.

TPD has partnered with the U.S. Secret Service to investigate these crimes, and they ask residents to educate family and friends.

There are resources to guide discussions with older adults:

FDIC Money Smart for Older Adults is a free instructor-led curriculum with modules on computer and telephone scams, and scams that pose as charitable organizations and exploits that target veterans. Materials can be downloaded and printed and ordered in bulk. Access it here.

The Bankers Trust Education Center offers step-by-step process for families to help protect vulnerable members, including arming them with a script, having a code word for use if a family member really is in trouble and advising them to send all unknown callers to voicemail. Access tips here.

The FBI also encourages these steps to avoid being victimized:

  • Shred credit card receipts and bank statements.
  • Disconnect from the Internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
  • Don’t give out personal information via the phone, mail, or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date.
  • Talk over investments with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.
  • Require all plans and purchases to be in writing.
  • Don’t pay in advance for services.
  • Don’t pay for services via prepaid gift cards or cryptocurrency. Legitimate services will not request payment through these methods.
  • Resist demands to act quickly or secretly, which are frequent tactics used by scammers.

For more information on the scope and scale of the problem, download the FBI’s 2022 Elder Fraud Report.

Again, the Tewksbury Police encourage anyone who thinks they were the target of a scam, or an attempted scam, to call them.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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