Scams targeting elderly on the rise


By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted June 15, 2013, at 12:18 p.m

The call to a woman in eastern Maine last Thursday sounded legitimate. The caller claimed to be with the Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) and inquired about the woman’s arthritis.

As the conversation went on, the caller claimed to have access to a “tool” that could help relieve the woman’s pain. All the woman had to do, the caller said, was to provide her Medicare number. When the woman refused (smartly), the caller hung up.

The people from EAAA are understandably upset. There’s no way they would call out of the blue and ask for someone’s personal and financial information. They’re doubly angry, because the scammers are preying on seniors.

However, the targets are not just older Mainers. Troy Morton is Chief Deputy of the Penobscot Sheriff’s Department and chairman of the local TRIAD, an alliance of police and senior citizens groups aimed at protecting our older citizens.

“It’s really flooded the area again,” Morton said of the scam calling.

He said on Friday the calls are going to seniors and non-seniors alike, and the scammers are tailoring their sales pitch depending on who answers their call.

He said scammers will use key terms to gain a person’s trust. They might cite “Part B” coverage when referring to Medicare; using such terms tends to make people think the caller is familiar with the subject, and so is trustworthy.

The moment of truth comes when the caller delivers the pitch: “Give me your Medicare number, and I’ll get the paperwork going,” or words to that effect. The insistence for immediate action — divulging personal or financial information, revealing credit card or bank account numbers — is a tipoff that this is a scam attempt.

“If somebody’s trying to sell you a service, they’ll sell it tomorrow too,” Troy Morton said. People should always be suspicious of “cold calls” and doubly so when the caller turns on the pressure to act right away.

Everyone who advocates on behalf of seniors (and consumers generally) urges them to take a breath and say to themselves, “What’s the worst that could happen if I wait?”

Then, as with any purchase, do your research. Call the business or agency where the offer supposedly originated and see if it’s genuine. Check with family, friends or other trusted people and learn from their experiences; if they’ve been burned, leave it alone.

The scam arthritis call came just a day after Gov. LePage signed a proclamation noting that June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Governor called attention to what has been termed “the crime of the 21st century” because it’s so pervasive and potentially disastrous for victims.

The Maine Council on Elder Abuse has just launched a website at with information about preventing all types of abuse of seniors.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit or email



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