Elderly warned to be wary of ‘doing business at the door’
When it comes to being a victim of scams the elderly are more likely to be targets than most other demographics, according to statistics released by the FBI. Still, according to Dallas County Hospital District Police, getting accurate numbers of how many seniors have actually fallen victim to scam artists is close to impossible.
“It may be a week or two before they realize they've been taken,” said Sgt. Robert Johnson, Crime Prevention Officer with the Dallas County Hospital District (DCHD) Police Department. “By then the suspect could be long gone and the memory of what took place may have faded.”
But the biggest obstacle in not reporting the incident is fear.
“Elderly parents may not tell their children or grandchildren they've been the victim of a scam for fear those relatives may think they are not capable of living on their own,” said Jane Hunley, Parkland’s Director of Geriatric Services. “It’s terrifying to think you may be forced to give up your independence because of a bad decision.”
Yet the age of an individual plays a critical role in whether they become a crime victim.
“Our parents and grandparents grew up as trusting individuals. They saw the good in everyone and never questioned when something didn't seem right because you just didn't do that,” Sgt. Johnson said. “Today’s generation is more wary. You have to earn the trust, but once obtained it can last a lifetime. It’s hard, though, to think that someone who ‘seems so nice’ might really be a criminal.”
There are numerous methods seniors can use to protect themselves and ways younger relatives can reinforce the message.
“One thing I always tell my mother is to never do business at the door. Nothing is so urgent that you have to make a decision right then,” Sgt. Johnson said. “Scam artists don’t like to hear ‘let me talk this over with my son or daughter before I make a decision.’ That’s when they start pressuring you because it’s a ‘one-time only’ sale or deal. Bottom line, if it seems too good to be true, it is.”
Hunley concurs, adding that seniors can also fall victim to funeral and cemetery fraud. Never make decisions about your final days with someone who has knocked on the door, she said. “Take a family member or trusted friend with you to a funeral home when you have difficult decisions to make.”
And never, Parkland officials emphasized, let an unsolicited salesman into your home or give out personal information like your date of birth or credit card or Social Security numbers to anyone over the phone.
“If you don’t know who that person is at the door, don’t open it,” Sgt. Johnson said. “And if you don’t know who the person is who is calling, don’t talk to them. It’s not being rude if you’re protecting yourself and your livelihood.”
If you would like Sgt. Johnson to discuss these or other crime prevention topics at your next community meeting, please contact him at 214.590.4688 or via email at Robert.Johnson2@phhs.org . To reach Parkland’s Geriatric Services, please call 214.590.8369.