Protecting seniors from scam artists

Dolores Bledsoe
Dolores Bledsoe

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's a growing problem for our state - fraud. Many times seniors are the targets. But a conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu this weekend teaches seniors how to protect themselves from this crime.

"The hassle, you wouldn't believe the hassle," said Dolores Bledsoe of Honolulu.

It's been a couple of years since Bledsoe was a victim of identity theft, but her anger lingers, along with a damaged credit score after someone got a hold of her financial information.

"I had an account with Sears and I paid it off. All of a sudden I got calls from Citibank saying I have a balance of $1700," she said.

Bledsoe fought to clear her name and her account, but it has been an exhausting battle with creditors.

"I think it's hell, that's what it is," she said.

Identity theft is just one way many are being scammed out of their money. Now, the State is bracing for a rise in fraud.

"Seniors are being especially targeted, they're very vulnerable to fraud," said Adele Ching, Senior Mediate Patrol.

Unlike a thief who steals your credit card, those who commit fraud steal your trust, in order to get your money.

While well-known fraudulent sweepstakes and lottery offers have been around for a while, now some employment and credit repair offers are also turning people into victims.

To detect financial red flags, it is important you know who you are dealing with. Also, have them answer questions about who and where they're located, never make payments for something that is supposed to be free - like a sweepstakes prize, and be suspicious if they urge you to act right away, without time to check their claims.

"Be cautious, and evaluate every offer that comes your way," said Lisa Nakao of Better Business Bureau.

Also keep an eye on your credit score and bank accounts, something Bledsoe learned the hard way to do.

"I monitor it weekly, and balance out every week and I know what it is -- it is," she said.

If you have been a victim of fraud, not only should you call police, you should also document all of your phone calls, and interactions with companies involved.