Albany, NY - August 20, 2014 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he will dispatch the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection to conduct training sessions for older New Yorkers on how to protect themselves against fraud. Older individuals are the most vulnerable populations to scams, and it is estimated that various schemes cost seniors in America more than $3 billion per year.
“Scams that target and defraud elderly individuals are shameful and will not be tolerated in New York State,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our administration is actively working with New York’s senior population to educate them on the ways scammers may try to defraud them, and how they can protect themselves now and in the future. I encourage all New Yorkers to learn more about protecting themselves and their loved ones from this kind of abuse and deception.”
Older individuals are among the likeliest targets of the unscrupulous scammers who prey upon them. According to the AARP, roughly one-third of all scam victims are 65 or older. AARP estimates that fraud cost older Americans more than $3 billion a year, but the true figure is many times higher, because most of these crimes go unreported out of embarrassment.
New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales said, “I commend Governor Cuomo for taking action and protecting older individuals against those who are intent on harming their stability and financial well-being. As scams aimed at seniors continue grow, so will our efforts to better protect them.”
New York State Office for the Aging Director Corinda Crossdale said, “When it comes to protecting yourself from scams, information is the best protection. Scam artists are always coming up with something new, so learning about the scams and how to protect against them is important. The State Office for Aging’s network of 59 local Offices for the Aging provides information on how to detect, and report fraud and abuse. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s directive to educate and protect older New Yorkers from being scammed.”
Department representatives will make presentations to older individuals at various dates and locations across New York State:
- August 28th at the Jewish Community Center of Buffalo at 787 Delaware Ave. Buffalo, NY at 10:30 a.m. (Topic: Senior Scams and Do Not Call Registry)
- September 3rd at the Ridgewood Adult Center at 59-14 70th Ave., Queens, NY at 10:30 a.m. (Topic: Senior Identity Theft and Fraud)
- October 2nd at Senior Scam Prevention Forum at the Bay Shore/Brightwaters Public Library at 1 S. Country Rd. Bay Shore, NY at 10:00 a.m. (Topic: Identity Theft and Senior Scams)
- October 25th at the Albany Law School’s Senior Day at 80 New Scotland Ave, Albany, NY from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. (Topic: Identity Theft and Financial Literacy)
Governor Cuomo also encourages seniors and those who care for seniors to be on the lookout for suspicious solicitations. The top three fraud categories affecting seniors, according to complaints to the Division of Consumer Protection, are:
Internal Revenue Service Scam: The caller states they are an IRS agent or police officer calling about a past due tax balance. Unless the debt is paid immediately with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram, the caller claims that officers will arrest the victim that day. These scammers often use caller ID hacks or spoofing technology so that the caller ID name or number appears to be that of the IRS. The Division of Consumer Protection alone received 78 formal complaints on this type of scam in 2013, compared to 62 in 2012.
Grandparent Scam: A senior receives an urgent phone call from someone who claims to be a grandchild who has an emergency, is out of town and needs money fast. The caller begs the grandparent not to tell his parents and to wire the funds quickly. Scammers might use actual relatives' names and information they get from social media or other sources. The Division of Consumer Protection alone received 51 formal complaints on this type of scam in 2013, when complaints first surfaced.
Free Grant Scam: Caller tells senior that they have been randomly selected and qualified for a “free government grant,” for reasons such as: paying taxes on time or being debt free. In one instance, the caller claimed that the grant was available to people starting small businesses. The victim will either be required to pay money upfront before receiving the grant money and/or be asked for personal and financial information which will be used to commit identity theft. The Division of Consumer Protection alone received 48 formal complaints on this type scam in 2013, compared to 39 in 2012.
The Division of Consumer Protection, in partnership with The Harry & Jeannette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, the State Office for the Aging, AARP and the Free Community Papers of New York, also hosts a monthly toll-free "Senior Consumer Information Line" which allows seniors Statewide to access free information they can use to stay safe, maximize their independence and improve their everyday lives. Seniors can access the line by dialing 1-800-503-9000. All information on the phone line is available in English and Spanish. Each month focuses on a new topic applicable to seniors.
For more information on additional Division of Consumer Protection presentations to seniors, to request a presentation four your group or organization or to file a consumer complaint, visit www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection or call the Consumer Assistance Hotline at 800-697-1220. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer and on Facebook.