San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging: Scams use fear to succeed


By Kay Kaylor
PREVIEW Columnist

For San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA), I am not only a part-time lead long-term care ombudsman, advocating for residents in extended care and assisted living residences in the region. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor. Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.
People in Pagosa Springs and nationally have been targeted by phone and computer scammers of all types, but the most heartbreaking scams involve fear and time pressure. First, the scammer mentions a crisis or major problem that must be quickly solved. After various emotions arise naturally from the listener or reader as a response to the threat, the scammer offers a solution involving payment, such as purchasing a gift card, wiring money, buying a cashier’s check, or giving out banking or other private information.
For phone calls, the best solution is to hang up. Even better, don’t answer the phone if you can see the number and don’t recognize it. If it is important, the person will leave a message or try again. Don’t open or answer emails with only links or poor English. Sometimes you can see the strange email address even if it appears to be real in the heading. If you do get caught up in the emotions from a threat, pause and make a list of pros and cons in your head. This will give you time to avoid a bad decision.
Scammers expertly use fake phone number and email identifications, but awareness of types of scams goes a long way toward prevention of financial loss. The real agencies and businesses the scammers fake would never call or email someone with these threats.
Here are six examples of common fear tactics:
1. A fake utility company says you are behind in your bill and will lose power if you don’t pay cash now (some even come to your door — don’t open it if you are not expecting someone).
2. The imposter Internal Revenue Service says you made criminal mistakes or owe money when you filed your taxes and soon will be arrested.
3. The artificial Social Security Administration says your Social Security number has been used in crimes and you will be arrested, asking for your Social Security number or money.
4. A warning says you are about to get a computer virus, often with loud noises and flashes if seen on your computer, and will lose your data, such as photos (shut it down or restart).
5. An immoral DNA cancer screener says people have died because they didn’t take the test they are offering.
6. A scammer says you will be arrested for not showing up for jury duty unless you pay.
SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call 264-0501 or send an email to