Triad combats fraud against elderly

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2007

Fraudsters have always preyed upon the weak, especially targeting their thieving schemes at the elderly, who are often more trusting, more socially isolated and less likely to get the police involved when they realize they have been taken.

Things are changing, however, that make the elderly even more susceptible to con artists. A growing population of elderly citizens gives hustlers more targets, and the Internet and other new technologies provide them ever more creative ways to fire at those targets.

When scam artists sell inferior asphalt driveways or inadequate roofing work, or even when they talk their way into the homes of older people living alone, their crimes usually cost victims a limited amount of money – whatever they can find in a purse or the amount agreed upon for the shoddy work, for example.

Today’s online hustlers and identity thieves, however, can wipe out an entire life’s savings before a victim even has a clue that anything is happening. Some of the offers they use to lure their prey are so enticing that even law enforcement and other professionals are amazed.

That’s why an organization like Triad is so important. A joint project between the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs Association and AARP, the group was started in 1988 as a partnership designed to give senior citizens the information they need to keep from being victimized by criminals.

Isle of Wight’s 8-year-old Triad chapter also partners with the Ruritans and the state attorney general’s office to provide important crime-fighting information to its elderly citizens. Such an opportunity arose during a conference in Smithfield on Monday.

Nearly 350 senior residents heard sound advice from an attorney general’s office representative, who told them, &uot;If you get a letter or phone call that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.&uot; It was old advice, based on something most of those attending had heard as children and echoing warnings they may have passed on to their own children.

Nonetheless, it is advice worth repeating: Anything that seems too good to be true very likely is, whether the offer is made in person, on the phone, by mail or over the Internet. Triad performs an important community service when it works to remind vulnerable area senior citizens of this basic fact of life.