Rep. Mark Bryant hosted a free community forum regarding consumer protections against scams and fraud on Thursday, April 27 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Windham Town Office. Panelists included Rep. Bryant, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, AARP Maine Communications Director Jane Margesson and AARP Volunteer State President Rich Livingston. Raelene Loura, co-host of Speak Out, also acted as the co-host of the forum.
|Panelists of experts educate the public on scams|
Scam artists deceive millions of people each year by calling, emailing or using the internet to trick victims into giving them money or personal information.
Mills led the discussion about ways to avoid becoming a victim of a scam or fraud and to raise awareness about these crimes. “I am most concerned about the seniors who fall victim to scams,” Mills said. “The most recent scam is the calls people receive that are supposedly from the IRS.”
Mills reiterated that representatives from the IRS do not call individuals at their homes or businesses. If one should receive such a call, hang up and then call the IRS to verify.
Livingston stated that scammers are becoming more sophisticated and relentless. “Don’t engage with these types of callers,” Livingston said. “If it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is.”
Both Livingston and Mills agreed that the persistent and obstinate scam artists have fooled many individuals. “I have known very educated and informed individuals who have fallen prey to scammers,” Mills said.
Margesson added that scam artists know how to push emotional buttons. In fact, there is a name that con-artist professionals use for convincing individuals to participate in a scam and it’s called, “getting you under the ether.”
One example of an emotional/ether response to a scamming call is the popular, “your grandchild is in trouble and we need money right now.” The red flag is “right now.”
This led the discussion to a recent lecture in Portland by Frank Abagnale hosted by AARP. Abagnale is the expert con artist who was portrayed in the film “Catch Me if You Can”, starring Leonard DiCaprio as Abagnale. Abagnale is now an American security consultant and lecturer who educates the public on ways to protect themselves from fraud and scams. His motto for receiving phone solicitations is, “Don’t engage. Disengage. If there is any doubt at all, always verify what the caller is offering.”
Advice that Abagnale gave at the Portland lecture included such suggestions as: 1) Put all mail in a postbox and not in the mailbox. The mailbox is one of the first places scam professionals check. 2) Use micro-shredders when shredding important and sensitive documents. Abagnale stated it would only take him minutes to paste together documents shredded by a simple shredder. 3) Personal scanners and printers have digital hardware that can easily be confiscated. PC Mag recommends extracting and destroying anything that remotely looks like a hard drive.
Abagnale was a successful con artist during the 1960s, easily conning even his father. He has been quoted as saying, “What I did in my youth is hundreds of times easier today. Technology breeds crime.”
Mills mentioned how a scam was recently offered in her name as a result of technology. “Supposedly, I was offering grants,” Mills said. “The scam had a picture of me from a website with the name, Janet Mill attached to it. The tell-tale sign was that there was no “s” at the end of my last name, Mills”
“Every day thousands of Mainers receive come-ons from scam artists,” Mills said in the Press Release regarding the forum. “With some education and awareness, you can recognize the red flags of a phone scam and be sure that you protect your hard-earned money.”