Commerce Dept. warning seniors about scams

Published 10:25 am Thursday, April 30, 2015

State officials hope to give a little advice to Minnesota’s seniors.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is continuing its efforts to educate older residents on financial scams and consumer protections through talks and seminars around the state.

“We often find that seniors are particularly targeted for financial scams and abuse,” Commissioner Mike Rothman said. “At the Department of Commerce, we receive a lot of complaints that involve seniors who have been scammed or defrauded.”

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To that end, commerce officials are partnering with other organizations such as the AARP, Better Business Burea and area financial institutions to offer more information about financial scams.

Seniors in Mower County and Minnesota face more financial scams than before, thanks to a combined rise in technology and the fact more baby boomers are retiring with better finances.

“The baby boomer generation is, economically, one of the larger generations,” Rothman said. “It’s the one that has earned the most in U.S. history, and they have a tremendous amount of savings.”

While many people are familiar with common scams — think a Nigerian prince who emails you to ask for your bank account number to store his riches — there are more complicated scams created every day, such as scammers pretending to be IRS agents or relatives in need of help.

While commerce officials encounter many scams, Rothman said there are also plenty of seniors who are too proud to report they’ve been swindled out of cash. In addition, it’s tough to track scammers as many operate out of the U.S.

That’s why commerce officials hope to spread the word about safe financial practices and potential scams.

Some of those warning signs according to the National Center of Aging include:

—Never give out banking, credit card, social security, Medicare or other information over the phone.

—Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly research them.

—Use direct deposit for benefit checks so they aren’t stolen from your mail.

—Sign up for Do Not Call lists.

—Shred all receipts containing your credit card number.

—Never buy from an unfamiliar company unless you receive written information.

Of course, the best advice often comes from fellow seniors.

“Seniors understand what’s going on, but at the same time they need resources to tackle this problem,” Rothman said.

Rothman was in Austin in early April as part of the Department of Commerce’s Financial Literacy Month. He and other commerce officials tour the state to continue learning about financial scams seniors face.

Seniors who have dealt with scams are encouraged to contact local law enforcement, financial institutions and even the Department of Commerce itself.

“We’re trying to get the word out as broadly as possible,” Rothman said.