Elgin police advise how seniors can protect themselves from scams
To protect yourself from scams, if you have the slightest doubt, even when it sounds like it's your own grandson on the line ... verify, verify, verify.
That was the advice Elgin police community outreach specialist Cherie Aschenbrenner gave to members of the American Baptist Women's Ministries who invited her to give a presentation Tuesday. The group meets monthly at First Baptist Church in Elgin.
Seniors are especially vulnerable to scams because they grew up to be more trusting than the modern world warrants, Aschenbrenner said. "I don't want you to be a victim. I want Elgin seniors to be so tough that they don't get scammed," she said.
If seniors fall for scams, they should never be too embarrassed to call police and can rely on Aschenbrenner's discretion, she said. "There is no call too small," she said.
People should beware of unsolicited emails and phone calls made to look and sound like they come from reputable companies, banks, or government agencies, such as the IRS or Medicare. Sometimes scammers have caller IDs that appear to come from doctor's offices, pharmacies and churches, Aschenbrenner said.
Never click on any email links or share passwords, personal information, credit card or account numbers, via phone or email, she said. When the caller asks for immediate action -- such as wiring money -- that's a very bad sign, she said.
Instead, people should call and verify with the appropriate company or entity that the inquiry is real, she said. People also can check if email addresses are legit at email-checker.net, she said.
Several phone carriers offer free services to screen automated "robocalls" on landlines, and a low-cost service to do so on cellphones, she said. She pointed to the site nomorobo.com.
Aschenbrenner's presentation included news media reports about scams. A particularly brazen one involved people calling seniors on the phone and pretending to be their grandchildren, giving a sob story about getting arrested and needing to be wired money for bail.
Resident Judith DeRolf said that happened to her husband, who was able to expose the scammer by asking where his grandchild was born.
Seniors sometimes receive scam emails with condolences about the loss of a friend, Aschenbrenner said. "You guys are in that age where it's, 'Oh my God, who died, I gotta know,'" she said. "No, you're not clicking here. That goes in the junk (folder)."
Another scam involves hacking into someone's email account -- say, the church pastor's -- and emailing people asking for gift cards to help someone in need, she said. "Gift cards are for gifts, not to pay these people that call you on the phone," Aschenbrenner said. "As soon as you hear 'gift card,' you're done."
There's one that involves hacking a computer, locking out the owner and demanding money to unlock it. In that case, unplug the computer and bring it to a computer repair specialist, she said.
Aschenbrenner also said people should be wary of scams on social media and suggested a free class about Facebook offered by Gail Borden Public Library. Resident Barb Myhrman said she plans to check it out. "I try to be savvy but I realize I have to be more savvy," she said.
Anyone who wants to receive emails from Aschenbrenner about scams or invite her to give a presentation can contact her at (847) 289-2626 or email@example.com.