The Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine was a busy place on Thursday as the AARP hosted a fraud protection forum, or “Scam Jam,” to help the elderly citizens of the region recognize internet fraud. More than 300 Mainers were in attendance.
The purpose of the event was to help reduce the large amounts of identity theft and scam problems that afflict so many of Maine’s older generation. AARP’s Jane Margesson reported:
“Our real goal was for people to walk out of the room feeling empowered, feeling that they don’t need to be the next victim. They can actually be great fraud fighters right here in Maine.”
This educational endeavor seems to be a positive move for both the consumer and local businesses. When fewer consumers become victim of scams, it boosts the economy, since they have the funds to put back into local businesses. The Maine Attorney General, Janet Mills, who was also in attendance, stated: “An informed consumer is a secure consumer.”
The event’s speakers focused on a myriad of topics covering the kinds of scams more common to the Maine region. Main topics included identity theft, credit card fraud, bogus sellers, online and imposter scams, and investment fraud.
Some of the tips for avoiding these scams included tools to recognize fraud. They used several examples of scams people use on the elderly generation, one of the most common of which is impersonating family members. Many scammers will call, email, or even text an older person claiming to be their great nephew in need of money to be bailed out of jail, to go through college, or some other odd request.
They prey on the emotion of the individual, and to the untrained eye, the request may seem to be legitimate. However, AARP and their group of experts officiating the Scam Jam have opened the eyes of these elderly residents in Maine to show them what a scam really looks like.
David Leach, examiner for the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, expressed some of his thoughts on the extremely positive event:
“Today’s event is a game-changer. We’re going on the offensive. We’re not sheep anymore. We’re sharks. When the phone rings, when something comes in the mail that’s illegal, when you get an email, you’ll know what to do.”
This was the first Scam Jam, and Margesson reported that it most likely wouldn’t be the last training session for the elderly and anyone else who wants to join. The success of the event was overwhelming, with hundreds of happy people leaving the event feeling much more secure about fraud protection best practices. Future AARP Scam Jam events are expected to pop up all over the country in the future.
[Image via CentralMaine.com]