Grassroots Efforts to Protect Seniors from Scams

One New York councilman is fed up with the way scammers target his elderly constituents, and he’s working on legislation that will do something about it. Councilman Chaim Deutsch has introduced a bill that would require the city’s Office of Consumer Affairs to produce public materials and conduct outreach to both senior citizens and those who care for them.

This effort would increase awareness of telemarketing scams, internet scams, and more. Why would a New York councilman spearhead such a highly specific bill? Perhaps it’s because of a very interesting statistic, culled from a report on the elderly. According to an article by Rafael Hoffman about Deutsch’s bill for Hamodia.com, “In his remarks in the council chambers, where the bill was introduced last week, Deutsch noted a study conducted by the National Council on Aging, which stated that New York City’s ‘over-60’ population makes double the amount of purchases by phone than the national average, making them especially vulnerable to such scams.”

It’s not just the elderly who are affected by the scams that Deutsch is trying to prevent, although the elderly are unfairly targeted. One of the hardest-hitting scams right now masquerades as the IRS, as criminals know the public carries an innate fear of having done something wrong with their taxes. Scammers literally from around the world are making the rounds, calling citizens and claiming everything from unpaid taxes to the need to update their profiles by handing over all of their personal data. Some scams have even threatened the victim with criminal prosecution if they don’t make a payment over the phone immediately.

Deutsch wants to put a stop to that. But it’s not just tax scams he’s after; there is another specific scam that focuses on the elderly, playing off one of their worst nightmares. Called the “grandparent scam” for a reason, this particularly heinous fraud happens when a caller states that he is holding the grandchild for ransom, and failure to pay up will result in his death. As many senior citizens don’t use technology like instant messaging or texting, and therefore have no immediate way to contact the loved one for verification, far too many seniors fall for it.

While a lot of people have tried to combat these horrible crimes, Deutsch is taking it a step further by also recognizing that scam victims come in many varieties, especially in their ethnicities. That’s why his bill would require the promotional materials to be distributed in multiple languages. He’s also stated that it’s not enough to create these materials, but that they need to be widely spread in senior centers and “natural” retirement communities, or neighborhoods that happen to have high volumes of elderly residents.

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