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Crimestoppers fight scams against elderly

Scam telephone calls from criminals’ prey on the senior citizen community every day. A common practice has been that a caller threatens to turn off their electricity or heat to their homes if they don’t pay their bill immediately. Callers have posed as a grandchild and tell their grandparent they are in trouble with the law and need money to post bond.
“This is not their fault, they (criminals) take advantage of our seniors and their hearts and where they are vulnerable,” said Sandra Olivas, Bank of Labor VP Community Business Development.

Mayor David Alvey, Kansas City, Kansas related a story of how his own 89-year-old mother was scammed.

“My mother received a phone call and the person presented as though he was her oldest grandson. The person told her he had been arrested and he needed $1500 to post bail to get out of jail. My mom is a very intelligent woman, a retired registered nurse and financially she is very competent. What this person did, he didn’t go to her head, he didn’t tell her something that would make sense to her, he got her in her gut, he got her where she was afraid, she loves her grandchildren and would do anything for her grandchildren,” he said.

His mother lost the money and learned that the caller was not her grandson, but a scam artist.

“What hurt my mother was that someone would take advantage of her love for her grandchildren and this person would use that to grab money from her,” said Alvey.

Each year over 2 million senior citizens fall victims to scams by strangers or even their own family members. It is estimated that they have financial losses totaling up to $2 million annually.

At a news conference last Friday, Bank of Labor in Kansas City, Kansas joined with CRA Partners to launch the first Senior Crimestoppers Program to educate and prevent fraud against seniors here in the greater metropolitan community.

“Bank of Labor is committed to protecting people against fraud that can lead to financial losses and heartache,” said Olivas, “These criminals are doing things, whether it is by telephone, email or coming to your door saying they will fix your roof or any other problem you have at your home. They take your money and they don’t come back,” she said.

The Bank of Labor set up a program last week to address the residents and staff at the Kansas City Transitional Care Center in Kansas City, Kansas. The Senior Crimestoppers program creates a zero tolerance platform to reduce crime in senior housing facilities, HUD communities and state Veterans homes.

Connie Wente, resident, feels safer after attending the program.

“I got scammed one time, it was a family member who took a check of mine,” she said.

She felt it was important to educate herself on steps that she can take in the future to keep her money safe and how to recognize a scam.

“The program addresses potential scams and other financial crimes. Society has had a longstanding, constant battle fighting crimes against the elderly, but with the help of the Senior Crimestopper Program we will work to reduce and prevent this threat,” said Olivas.

Olivas told the residents gathered at the Kansas City Transitional Care Center, that scam fraud is a serious topic, but their meeting with them was a celebration.

“It is a celebration because we are coming together to fight these criminals. We have the Mayor and the Kansas City, Kansas police department here supporting us fighting against this type of crime. We are not going to let them get away with this,” she said.

George Clinard, Vice President of Relationship Management, traveled to Kansas City, Kansas to conduct the Senior Crimestoppers charter presentation at their new sponsored facility on Rainbow Boulevard.

“We want you to place our plaque by the front door so when people come through the door, they see it and it sends a message that you are in the senior crimestoppers program and you have a zero tolerance for crime. This program started in 1994 in Memphis, Tennessee and currently is in 47 states today. The program has reduced overall incidents of crime on a national basis by over 90 percent,” said Clinard.

The national program helps prevent abuse, neglect, theft, vandalism, substandard care, fraud and unethical behavior of any type impacting vulnerable older adults.

The program empowers facility owners and management who partner with Senior Crimestoppers to proactively reduce crime in their communities.

Olivas used one word to sum up the new program—empowerment.

“We are empowering our seniors with the right information so they can make good financial decisions. That is what this is all about, all of us working together with our law enforcement to honor and respect our seniors, who have earned the right to enjoy their life without the fear of financial abuse,” she said.

The Bank of Labor will offer future free fraud prevention educational classes to the public based on consumer demand. For more information, call Bank of Labor at 913-321-4242.