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A.G. Schneiderman Announces Initiatives Aimed at Protecting Seniors from Scams During National Financial Literacy Month

Schneiderman to Host “TeleTown Hall” with 10-15K AARP Members on Thursday, Encourages Senior Groups to Book Senior Investor Protection Presentations
Schneiderman: We Will Keep Working to Empower New York Seniors and Help Protect Them from Financial Predators

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he will host a “TeleTown Hall” meeting today with AARP members, to help protect them from becoming victims of financial scams. He also encouraged senior groups to contact his office to book a presentation of “Smart Seniors, Smart Investors – Don’t Get Scammed” as part of National Financial Literacy Month. This statewide investment fraud prevention program, launched in 2013, is designed to help seniors identify potential scams and rip-offs before they happen. The focus is on investment and financial fraud that targets older New Yorkers – the warning signs, how to avoid being taken advantage of, and where to seek help if you think you’re a victim.

“We’re all at risk of becoming victims of investment fraud,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Losing money on a bogus investment can happen to anyone. Sadly, older adults, who are often targeted by con artists, are at special risk. This educational push is aimed at empowering vulnerable New York seniors with information that will help them spot a scam before they are victimized.”

Attorney General Schneiderman has partnered with AARP New York to help protect New York seniors from becoming victims of fraud. The TeleTown Hall will be held TODAY at 12:05 p.m. During the call, Attorney General Schneiderman will discuss the most common types of scams and fraud with an anticipated 10,000-15,000 AARP members from New York State on an interactive call that allows participants to ask questions. Media are invited to listen in, but questions will be limited to AARP members. 

Members of the media can dial 1-877-229-8493 and use code 18948.

“New Yorkers registered over 100,000 official complaints about fraud last year, and we know many more victims are reluctant to come forward,” said Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP for New York State. “Fraud is clearly a problem, and AARP is glad to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman to empower our members and all New Yorkers to spot and resist scams. AARP is particularly thrilled that Attorney General Schneiderman will speak to our members directly about this issue during a TeleTown Hall today. In addition to the resources of the Attorney General’s office, the AARP Fraud Watch Network offers extensive educational and practical resources to members and non-members alike in our efforts to battle elder financial abuse – which just a few years ago had already ballooned into anearly $3 billion-a-year national problem and, as our population ages, is likely to continue growing.”

Specific topics that will be covered in the program include: who is at risk, how con artists operate, the psychology of persuasion and influence, techniques commonly used by con artists, the red flags to look out for, and strategies to take control of your finances and avoid becoming a victim of investment fraud. Attorney General Schneiderman will also discuss the role his office plays in protecting New Yorkers from scams, and offer tips on how they can protect themselves, and what to do if an individual feels they’ve been victimized.

In addition to the Tele-Town Hall, Attorney General Schneiderman and AARP are co-sponsoring 13 “Shred Fest 2016” events across New York State beginning on April 26. New Yorkers are encouraged to do a post-tax filing season spring cleaning of sensitive financial and medical documents and bring them to Shred Fest sites, where they will be safely destroyed.

Attorney General Schneiderman offers the following tips to help seniors avoid being scammed:

  • Never give your personal financial information to someone you don’t know or who contacts you. Often investment schemes are also attempts to steal your identity.
  • Private information, including Social Security number, date of birth, and account numbers can all be used to wipe out your accounts.
  • Get it in writing. Be sure to ask for written information about the investment and the organization behind the deal. This includes work history, and the background of the salesperson, as well as information about the company itself. Make sure all involved are licensed and the investment is registered. This protects you and reduces chances you’ll misunderstand something. It’s a good idea to put your investing instructions in writing also. Keep records of any and all transactions and conversations.
  • Ask questions. If the salesperson refuses to give you information, it is because they are hiding something.
  • End the conversation. Don’t be a courtesy victim. Practice saying “no” by simply telling anyone who pressures you, “I never make investing decisionswithout (getting information in writing, speaking with my accountant, etc.). I will call you if I am still interested. Goodbye.”
  • Knowing how to get out in advance makes it easier to leave the conversation if the pressure starts rising.
  • Don’t feel indebted to someone who gives you “unsolicited” financial advice. A person giving un-asked for advice may be trying to gain your trust so he/she can get their hands on your money.
  • Don’t invest in something you don’t understand. If an investment is too complicated to understand, it is the wrong investment for you.
  • Don’t be duped into a fraudulent reverse mortgage. Never sign your deed over to someone without seeking independent advice. Don’t respond to unsolicited advertisements or promotions. Seek out your own reverse mortgage counselor.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The key is to diversify and divide your investments in order to limit potential losses.
  • Never make a check payable to an individual. Make all checks payable to a company or a financial institution – this leaves a more secure paper trail should you suspect fraud in the future.
  • Err on the side of teporting. If you think you’re a victim of abuse, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to file a complaint. The situation will only become worse if you do nothing.

To learn more about how to file complaints or report suspected instances of fraud, please visit www.ag.ny.gov or call 1-800-771-7755. Senior groups are also encouraged to contact the Attorney General's office at this number to book a "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors - Don't Get Scammed" presentation.

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