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Fraud: It can happen to you

Expo sheds light on fraud threat, tactics

Created date

July 24th, 2012

A trip to the mailbox brings an unexpected bill for a magazine you don t remember ordering. An unsolicited phone call asks for money to help a family member in need. Before reaching for the checkbook, watch out you are about to become the victim of fraud. According the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, nearly 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year. Unfortunately, seniors continue to be a prime target for con artists and thieves. In a bold effort to protect and educate seniors in Virginia, Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, recently held a fraud expo featuring Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and showcasing a documentary starring Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney entitled Last Will and Embezzlement. It is a wonderful thing Greenspring is doing, says the film s writer and producer Pamela Glasner, whose own parents were fraud victims. Fraud can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The one thing we all have in common is that we are going to grow older. We need to be aware and protect ourselves. Kicking off the expo, Cuccinelli addressed the attendees, encouraging them to utilize the many services Virginia has in place to protect seniors and their assets. A simple rule to follow is to never provide personal information when you are being contacted, says Cuccinelli. Personal information should only be provided when you are initiating contact with your bank or financial institution. He then encouraged community members to visit the attorney general s government website (oag.state.va.us) or contact his office with any questions or concerns. This is a very real problem, says community member Roy O Connor. In addition to hurting people financially, becoming a victim of fraud is embarrassing for the one involved. They feel they should have known better. Helping people know better was the theme of the day. Following Cuccinelli s remarks, expo attendees viewed Last Will and Embezzlement, which the The New York Times called eye opening, and The Huffington Post remarked should be required viewing. Glasner then addressed the crowd and answered questions. I never know how to feel about this film, she says. I am honored and elated to do this. But when I watch it, I see the worst thing that happened to my family. I had heard about fraud and elder abuse, but it was not a reality until it happened to my parents. I am glad that this film allows me to pull something positive out of the wreckage.

Helping hands

Newly educated and informed about the threat of fraud, expo attendees had access to vendors offering resources to help them from fraud, including AARP, Fairfax County Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Fairfax County Police Department, Arlington County Police, Virginia State Corporate Commission Bureau of Insurance, and Virginia State Corporate Commission Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. It is important that seniors know we are here to help protect them in all ways, including fraud, says Jim Reid, crime prevention officer with the Fairfax County Police. Greenspring s social work and security staff also attended the expo to answer questions and to provide residents information regarding resources available to them in their own community. Education is key, says Kathleen Taylor, social worker. Our job is to provide that education, and if a person feels they ve been taken advantage of, we provide them with all the resources they need to get help. We want to keep our residents aware that fraud is out there, says Ken Roland, security manager. We encourage residents to bring us any mail they feel is fraudulent. We had one person bring us 21 pieces of mail. He was amazed how well done and legitimate it all looked. But he was aware and knew what to look for, and that made all the difference. Representatives from Greenspring s resident-led computer club were on hand to let neighbors know how they are able to help protect each other from the threat of fraud. Fraud is so often linked to computer usage, says Robert Bonner, computer club president. Our job is to keep people aware of the threats that are out there. We want to position people ahead of the game. Fellow computer club member Gil Haring, a retired Arlington County police officer, admits the problem of fraud and seniors is very real. Hopefully, by increasing awareness and educating ourselves, no one will ever need to rely on these services, he says.

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