Older New Yorkers Urged To Blow Whistle On Con Artists

Attorney General Spitzer today launched a statewide program to help protect older New Yorkers against common frauds.

The Attorney General’s new "Scam Stopper" program will inform seniors, service providers, clergy and others on how to recognize, thwart and report con artists and other scammers.

"Senior citizens are frequent targets of scams," said Spitzer. "With this program, we seek to empower and educate older New Yorkers on how to identify scams and protect themselves. We also hope to increase reporting of possible scams to appropriate authorities to prevent further exploitation."

The program will provide materials and educational sessions in which older New Yorkers and those who provide services to them can learn about:

  • Identity theft;
  • Predatory lending;
  • Phone slamming;
  • Home improvement scams;
  • Foreign lotteries;
  • Credit card and telemarketing scams; and,
  • Health discount card scams.

Federal research suggests that senior citizens may be reluctant to report frauds because they fault themselves and fear their independence may be curtailed. Additionally, cognitive impairments or declining physical health may cause fraud victims to feel overwhelmed, and may discourage them from seeking assistance. Finally, like other consumers, many seniors are not aware of their rights and available resources.

Scam Stopper will help familiarize older citizens with techniques to avoid becoming victims of scams and fraud. The program will also raise seniors’ awareness about their rights as consumers and the resources available to them if they are victimized. Volunteer Scam Stoppers will share the educational materials and fraud kits with other advocacy groups in local communities, and will report suspected schemes in the marketplace to appropriate authorities.

Senior advocates welcomed Attorney General Spitzer’s Scam Stopper initiative:

Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director said: "Consumer fraud is a serious issue which costs consumers billions of dollars a year. Too often, these common frauds and scams target older New Yorkers, who are especially vulnerable to these crimes. The Attorney General’s commitment to raising awareness of these scams and arming our seniors with the knowledge and tools to spot fraud is a crucial step to stopping this crime in its tracks."

Michael Burgess, Executive Director, NY State Alliance for Retired Americans and Legislative Director New York StateWide Senior Action Council said: "Consumer fraud has become rampant and a fast growing "industry," like an invasive weed. Fortunately, the Attorney General is going beyond his legal efforts to halt specific scams with this Scam Stopper program which recognizes that the biggest threat to the scammers is an army of consumers - especially seniors - who will report them for legal action."

Kevin Murray, executive Director of The Retired Public Employees Association said: "As fraudulent schemes become more sophisticated, it’s important to educate our members to detect and avoid such scams. This program should help in this regard."

According to the National Fraud Information Center, 33 percent of all victims reporting telemarketing fraud in 2004 were 60 or older. Prize and sweepstakes fraud is more prevalent among older Americans than among the public at large, and is especially prevalent among consumers age 70 and older.

Senior citizen groups, advocates, social workers, and clergy interested in taking part in the Scam Stopper program may contact the Office of the New York State Attorney General at 1-800-771-7755 or register at www.ag.ny.gov