We've all gotten the emails or the phone calls: a Nigerian prince wants to cut you in on a multi-million dollar diamond deal, a Middle Eastern oil company just found out you have stock in their business, or a Chinese textile company shows that you are the new heir to its vast, centuries-old fortune.
“If it sounds too good to be true,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, warning a room full of Melrose seniors at the Fuller House Thursday morning, “it probably is” responded Koutoujian and the crowd in unison.
Koutoujian was at the elderly care facility to talk about the latest inclusion of his new TRIAD program, an initiative he spearheads aimed at helping seniors avoid being scammed over the phone, online and through the mail.
The TRIAD Program and Scams
The Triad program is an initiative started by Koutoujian to help educate seniors about scams that target the elderly in the Melrose region. Through meetings and support programs such as Thursday's, Koutoujian aims to decrease the “more sophisticated” and “insidious forms” of scams that recently have targeted the elderly.
Koutoujian discussed the importance of cyber and phone safety tips, telling seniors to beware who they give their personal information to and warned that impersonators will try to pretend as though they are a bank, private company or even a government employee to illicit information, and ultimately, money.
One of the latest scams TRIAD has clued in on involves a scammer pretending to be a close family member who explains that they are in crisis in a foreign country and need money wired to them immediately. Using information they have obtained on a family member through the Internet or other source, the scammer tries to convince people of their dire state in a far-off nation and that without acting they could be in serious danger.
Koutoujian said that the best prevention if someone claims to be a loved one in trouble is to double-check with a family member concerning the status of an individual. If a family member can't be reached, Koutoujian explained that mentioning the details of the person's request to your bank or other money handlers can also aid in discovering if the call is suspicious, as these institutions have dealt with such scams before.
“Ask for help,” was one of the key tenants Koutoujian continually returned to.
In addition to this new scam, Koutoujian said that it's the season for Medicare and other health plan scams. During this period in his speech Koutoujian added the idea that a lot of these scams will be over the phone, saying,“don't be afraid to hang up” if you suspect the person you are talking to isn't who they say they are.
“It's About Education”
Koutoujian repeatedly expressed, “it's about education,” explaining that the way to beat scammers is to have a progressive collaboration between seniors and his office to be up-to-date on all the latest con artists trying to target the elderly.
“It's about outreach and that ground level,” Brodeur said, “the education piece is critical.”
Senior citizen and former resident of the Fuller House who now resides in a condominium across the street, Helen Buckley, said that Koutoujian was “concise and informative (and gives) openings to more information for the whole Melrose community not just (seniors).”
The “Safety Net” and Goodbyes
Before departing from the Fuller House, Koutoujian also detailed a different problem with a specific group of seniors: becoming lost due to cognitive disabilities such as dementia.
The “Safety Net” portion of the TRIAD program, in conjunction with LoJack Security, uses GPS tracking systems to locate lost individuals which can “save taxpayers a lot of tax dollars” with the addition of this system, according to the sheriff.
In closing, Koutoujian reiterated the key ideals of the TRIAD program: education and prevention, doubling down on the day's slogan: “If it's too good to be true, it probably is.”
For more information on the TRIAD program or to report a potential scam, contact the Community Affairs Division of the Middlesex Sheriff's office at 978-932-3265.