San Diego

San Diego seniors lost $100M in scams last year. Local leaders hold anti-scam workshop

Very few victims recover from the money lost

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Scammers frequently target senior citizens for many reasons. In many cases, they’re after their lifetime savings.

If you come across a pop-up on your computer that says … “To unlock the computer please call support immediately. Please do not attempt to shutdown or restart your computer, doing that may lead to data loss or identity theft.”

It’s probably a scam.

Iris Williams knows about elder scams.  

“Just yesterday, I got the one on my computer, and now I know how to turn that off because I was panicked. I know I’m not supposed to call the number and I don’t, but I can never figure how to turn it off and I know that’s part of the problem,” Williams said.

That’s why she was among the hundreds of seniors who showed up to the senior scam-stopper event.

“I realize how easy it is to be scammed and I wanted to see what other scams might be out there,” Williams said.

San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan, said they’ve been able to track nearly $98 million in elder-related scams across the county. She said that number does not even include scams that go unreported.

“They’re taking away their stability, their ability to pay rent, to pay their mortgage, to put food on the table,” Stephan said.

Stephan said the County's Elder Justice Task Force is seeing a 70% increase in the tax support scam.

Unfortunately, very few victims recover from the money lost.

“This is really a big problem, and while we are going after the perpetrators, and prosecuting and getting successes, the number one thing we want to do is prevent that loss in the first place,” she said.

Stephan said that often a pop-up on the screen notifies you that your computer has been compromised. It then asks you to call a number on the screen to fix it. When you call, you are then told your bank account has been compromised due to a hack to your computer. The person on the phone tells you that you must withdraw cash, and someone will come pick it up, according to Stephan.

“We want to make sure our seniors know, if you have a pop-up in your computer, close your computer. If you’re worried that there’s an actual hack to your computer, take it to a professional store, someone who can fix your computer, do not respond to the pop-up,” Stephan said.

“When something like this happens, take a breath, be calm and call a friend because usually someone can tell them this is a scam,” Laurie Davies, State assemblywoman for District 74 said.

Stephan said it’s very important that you report if you’ve been a victim of a scam to the FBI, police, or the DA’s office. She said that allows her office and law enforcement to set up an undercover operation to recover money.

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