Seniors easy prey for phone scams, even with help of Do Not Call Registry

Scott Gordon

The National Do Not Call Registry will benefit senior citizens but still leaves them vulnerable to telemarketing fraud schemes, said senior crime prevention specialist Amanda Jones of the Evanston Police Department.

“The less calls you get, the easier it is to pay serious attention when you do get calls,” Jones said.

The problem is that the registry doesn’t bind telemarketers soliciting charitable contributions or survey companies — two common fronts for swindlers, she said.

Jones said telemarketing scams often target senior citizens because they are more likely to want or be able to donate money to charities.

Fraudulent callers may also continue to operate under business auspices, ignoring the list.

Jones added that memory-loss problems can make senior citizens more vulnerable to fraud.

Often, they will use numbers that are easy to remember and easy for others to find — birthdays, for example — as personal identification numbers on their accounts, she said. Jones added that senility can cause people to be taken in by caller’s offers without even remembering to take the time and find out who the caller is.

Also, Jones mentioned that many retired people live on fixed incomes and are hesitant to take on the costs of call monitoring services, such as caller ID.

Jones said the best way to deal with a questionable phone solicitor is to ask to be mailed information. The safest bet is to donate to a local organization with which you are familiar.

Most importantly, Jones said, people should not give out information to callers they don’t know. Real credit card companies will never ask you for your Social Security or account number.

“When you get a phone call from a stranger, they can tell you anything and you have absolutely no way to check on it,” Jones said. “So my feeling is put the phone down. You don’t know where it’s been.”