Senior scam presentations aim to increase awareness of fraud

Scammers targeting Latino community

Video: Senior scam presentations aim...

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department is holding scam prevention presentations all over the county, hoping to spread awareness of these crimes, particularly among senior citizens. 

Phone and email scammers target the elderly, and the Santa Barbara County District Attorneys Office has partnered with the city through a grant to provide the free classes. Presentations are offered in both English and Spanish. 

"We feel it is important to offer the presentations in Spanish because scammers are targeting the Hispanic community right now," says Ruth Corona, who works with the Victim Witness Program for the District Attorney's Office. "Scammers are calling claiming to the be the IRS, and demanding money while threatening deportation. The best way to combat this problem is to spread awareness."

"There are definitely scams that are targeted at them," says Dayton Aldrich, a victims advocate with the district attorney's office. He says scammers go after senior citizens because they are most likely to own their own home, have money saved up, and are least likely to report it when they are scammed. Santa Maria's Parks and Recreation Department has teamed up with the District Attorney's Office to offer free classes and presentations to seniors on how to stay scam-free. 

 "These crooks are becoming more clever, more sophisticated and more intelligent in the way they approach us," says Deputy District Attorney Vicki Johnson, who returned to work after retiring to help put this program together in 2016. Johnson says combating these types of crimes can be difficult because scammers are very hard to track down and prosecute. 

"The best way we can combat this particular kind of crime is by educating the community so they don't get caught up in these scams."

The classes are taught in both English and Spanish. 

"Don't pick up your phone if you don't recognize the phone number," says Ruth Corona, a bilingual member of the Victim Witness Program with the attorney's office. That is just one piece of advice she gives during presentations in Spanish. The Hispanic community is being specifically targeted right now by scammers. 

"They will get threatening phone calls, supposedly from the IRS saying they owe back taxes," says Corona. "Threatening deportation if they don't pay right away."

Besides staying away from unknown numbers, organizers say any sense of urgency, or anyone trying to get you to pay with a prepaid card or wire transfer, is a big red flag. 

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