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Seniors Taught How to Avoid Scams

N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs holds free program to increase senior fraud awareness.

It’s okay to be rude and hang up on suspicious callers, area seniors were told at a consumer information event aimed to protect them from fraud.

About 100 seniors attended a program sponsored by the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs held at the in Caldwell Thursday morning.

The division's new "FedUp Handbook"—a 58-page pamphlet on senior fraud and protection—was distributed for the first time at the free event.

N.J. Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said the handbook was first created in 2008 and was recently updated because con artists are continuously developing new ways to scam seniors.

Chiesa shared the “grandparent scam” as an example of a new tactic being used to trick seniors into parting with their money. With the grandparent scam, seniors are told a grandchild is in trouble and needs either bail money or money to pay for hospital fees.

Other common scams involve investment opportunities that are too good to be true or solicitations for phony charitable organizations.

“Once you wire that money, it’s gone,” Chiesa said.

Seniors were warned to never give out personal information, such as their social security numbers, addresses or children's names, unless they are absolutely certain who they are talking to.

“Credit cards can be opened in an hour,” Chiesa said, adding that in another hour the cards could be charged with thousands of dollars using a fraud victim’s identity.

Thomas Calcagni, director of Consumer Affairs, said scams are more common in tough economic times.

“It’s really more important now than ever when the economy is bad, our savings become more and more precious,” Calcagni said.

Seniors, he said, are often targeted because they are perceived as gullible. Just because a group has an official sounding name or professional-looking materials, does not mean they are legitimate, he warned.

Margaret Anastos, who does outreach for Consumer Affairs, told the seniors that it’s okay to hang up on callers they don't trust.

Anastos said another popular scam involves being told you won a large amount of money, but need to pay a fee in order to receive it.

Tell callers to “take it out of my winnings” she said. Then, she said, see how fast they get off the phone.

Anyone who is uncertain about a business or organization, should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at 877-746-7850 or www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov.

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