That was the message relayed Thursday, April 8, by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and other officials who gathered at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center to talk about scams, frauds and the impact such crimes have on the elderly.
They stressed that people of all ages and regardless of education level are at potential risk from thieves who are experts at winning people’s trust.
Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson said the city receives many calls from people wondering about potential fraud and how to avoid it. The city website has information people can refer to if they have questions about recognizing and avoiding scams.
“But that information needs to be more robust and provided in a much bigger community outreach type of program,” said Carlson, who added that among people in Moorhead who have been victimized was a professor who lost more than $800,000.
A former law enforcement officer also fell victim to fraud, according to Carlson.
“These scam artists utilize technology and very dangerous methods to perpetrate identity theft and other types of electronic money transfers,” Carlson said.
In addition to reminding community members and their families to be on guard against fraud, Klobuchar said another reason for her visit to the region was to promote the passage of federal legislation aimed at battling fraud and protecting seniors from scammers.
The proposed legislation includes the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act and the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act.
The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would direct the Federal Trade Commission to create an office to educate seniors about fraud schemes while also improving the agency’s monitoring and response to fraud complaints.
The Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act would direct the FTC to report to Congress on scams targeting seniors and to make recommendations on how to prevent future scams during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials said Thursday one of the most important things for individuals and families to remember is to never provide valuable personal information like a Social Security number to someone who phones or emails and that before any such information or money is given out it should be made very clear who is asking for something and why.
They said a warning sign that a call or email is not on the level is when someone is making it seem urgent that action be taken.
The following information regarding fraud prevention comes from the city of Moorhead website:
- Never pay for products or services ahead of time unless you are sure the company is reputable.
- Read everything in a contract before you sign it. Don’t sign anything you feel nervous about or don’t understand.
- Resist pressure from scam artists to sign anything or give an answer right away.
- Beware of overly friendly strangers. Scam artists know that they can victimize you easier if they befriend you first.
- Never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you know to whom you are talking.
- Keep the Scam Prevention Worksheet by the telephone to help you determine if telemarketing calls are legitimate. The worksheet is available on the city’s website.
- Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry online or by calling 1-800-921-4110.
Carlson said it is believed that people 50 and older represent about 56% of scam victims, but she stressed that people of any age can fall prey to creative scammers.
Anne Hoefgen, executive director of Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, agreed.
“Scammers are smart. And they’re getting smarter every day,” Hoefgen said.