Staying safe from scammers amid trying times | Local News Stories | #scams | #elderlyscams
WASILLA — Navigating through the modern world is challenging enough. As the pandemic continues to shift and evolve, so do the methods of scammers attempting to take advantage of people.
“They don’t care. They’re ruthless,” Valley resident Debra Sjolseth said.
Sjolseth and her husband Randy received numerous calls over the last month attempting to draw sensitive information. She said that callers approach them through a range of guises. She suspects the advent of the recent stimulus coming out could be leading more scammers to take advantage of the situation.
“I know it’s happening a lot… They found out about the stimulus money. So now they’re trying to get this money out of people’s checking accounts,” Sjolseth said.
Sjolseth said she knows there are lots of people out there who’ve dealt with fraudulent callers or even worse, fell victim to their ploys and suffered severe financial consequences.
“People have to be smart about it… Everybody should be screening their calls right now,” Sjolseth said.
The issue hits close to home, but not because of the recent attempts at Sjolseth’s household. She said that her father was a victim of one of these phone scams and lost a substantial amount of money as a result.
“I felt so bad for my dad. Because my dad was living on 500 and some dollars a month social security and he was sending them money for this free car. Of course, he never got it. He was just real broken hearted… I feel bad for all those people,” Sjolseth said.
According to Wasilla Area Seniors, Inc. CEO Chuck Foster, elderly residents can be specifically targeted. He said it’s a chronic problem across the nation. He noted that they’ve dealt with various attacks in the past, but they haven’t noticed any recent spikes.
“They typically will pop up when there’s something like the stimulus payments coming out or PFDs are coming out. That’s when we get a lot of it,” Foster said. “Certainly seniors are specifically targeted. The reason seniors are targeted is because it works… The scammers take advantage of that caring and trusting nature.”
While target demographics vary case by case, there’s a number of widely used common practices in a modern day scammer’s arsenal.
According to Foster, one of the first things a scammer will do is try to create a sense of urgency to evoke information. Depending on the amount of information already at hand, scams range from threatening legal action or loss of medical benefits unless a payment is received to calls claiming family members are in some sort of emergency.
“Some of them are very sneaky because they’ve hacked some kind of database… We tell people generally, ‘if it sounds good to be true it’s too good to be true. Just hang up. Don’t try to investigate. Just hang up and call the police and share with your friends because they’re probably going to be targeted next as well,’” Foster said.
Alaska Veterans and Pioneer Home Palmer administer Joshua Shaver said one of the key things to keep in mind is that government agencies don’t reach out through the telephone to ask for information like your social security number or bank account no matter how urgent the matter is.
“Just don’t fall into the urgency that they try to instill in those phone calls,” Shaver said.