Scam Jam: seniors learn to shut down scams
Pennsylvanians learned how to stop scams in their tracks and at an educational event.
With advancing technologies and new scams, people across the country worry how they can protect themselves from identity theft, stolen money, and ruined credit . In Montrose, an educational ‘Scam Jam’ event gave seniors the tools they need to identify and report scams.
Through bingo boards, representatives from the Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Tioga Area Agency on Aging, the PA Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS), and the Attorney General’s Office took participants through examples of scams. Senior Protection Unit Director Dave Shallcross from the Attorney General’s Office of Public Engagement and Katrina Boyer, Investor Education Coordinator from the (DoBS) read out numbers.
“R 16, ‘Understanding annuities and how they work,’” said Shallcross.
“How about R 23, ‘Read the fine print,’” said Boyer.
“Our next one is F 9,” said Shallcross.
One of the scams covered social media. Shallcross said online posts reveal a lot about users – and potentially their passwords.
“You don’t want to broadcast [anything about your passwords]. Make sure your passwords have nothing to do with anything you’ve shared with anyone else,” said Shallcross. “Make it something unpredictable, right? [Such as,] ‘SourPotatoSalad197@231.’ Who’s gonna figure that out?”
Shallcross also highlighted how scammers can use technology to trick people through phone scams.
“They can record someone’s voice off the internet, social media, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat – you name it. And they can take that voice or an image. They can do a deepfake video, also, and it’s the person you expect it to be. It’s the voice that you are familiar with now telling you they are in some kind of danger or trouble and they need your financial assistance,” said Shallcross.
Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to mimic a person’s voice and image to create realistic audio or video.
Besides teaching participants to spot scams, organizers taught attendees how to respond and protect themselves.
Investor Education Coordinator Katrina Boyer said that freezing credit scores can keep scammers from getting personal information from credit reporting agencies’ websites.
“Freezing your credit…stops new credit from being opened in your name, period. What happens is, it stops a potential creditor from being able to access the report on Equifax, Transunion, or Experian. They won’t be able to see it,” said Boyer.
Frozen credit reports keep scammers and creditors alike out of credit information, and Boyer added that people can unfreeze their credit when needed. She also cleared up a common misconception about credit scores.
“Pulling your own credit report does not impact your credit report at all. What impacts your credit score is when you apply for credit, if you apply for credit over and over again, it can bring your credit score down,” said Boyer.
Boyer recommended that everyone should check their credit score report at least once a year to search for any unauthorized activity.
For phone scams, Shallcross recommended an easy way to avoid being tricked.
“When your phone rings, don’t answer,” said Shallcross. “Yeah, it’s that simple – it’s that simple. If you don’t want to be a victim of a phone scam, don’t answer your phone live.”
However, while Shallcross told attendees to let their answering machine do the work for them, he added that some scammers will leave messages to make their trick more believable.
Above all else, he emphasized that anyone can fall for a scammer’s tricks – and that they should not blame themselves if they do.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed by. You’ve done nothing wrong. The criminal’s done the wrong act, not you. What are you embarrassed by? Everyone’s subject to fraud,” said Shallcross.
For more information on protecting yourself from scams, visit the PA Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS), and the Attorney General’s Office.