Michigan’s attorney general told a group of Grand Haven senior citizens Friday morning that they were the “most vulnerable” target of financial scams.
“Seniors grew up during a time when this didn’t used to happen,” said Dana Nessel, who prioritizes elder abuse awareness and prevention. “They’re just more trusting than other generations.”
Around 75 people gathered at Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging to listen to Nessel. She covered all types of scams that seniors should look out for: consumer scams, when companies price items way higher than they should be; the “grandparent scam,” when scammers use real personal information found through social media to pretend as if they are someone’s relative asking for money; home disaster and improvement scams; utility imposter scams; and Social Security scams.
“They all have the same basic ingredients,” said Nessel, noting that if the request is “urgent” – meaning you have to respond immediately – or if the person is asking for only cash or a gift card, it is likely a scam.
Some are seasonal, Nessel said, and come in the form of tax scams or catfishing on a dating app close to Valentine’s Day.
“Like any other population, seniors are looking for love in all the wrong places,” the attorney general said, gaining a laugh from the crowd. She warned both men and women that they should meet someone for the first time in a public setting.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it is,” Nessel said. “If you were like me, you grew up in a time where it was rude to assume that somebody was trying to take advantage of you – but, unfortunately, it’s the day and age we live in. You have to protect yourself and be careful.”
Seniors are primary targets because they are assumed to have a Social Security check and retirement savings, Nessel said.
Grand Haven resident Ruth Crowell said she previously had someone try to scam her by saying it related to her Medicare account.
“Just a phone call and they wanted to give me a new number or something,” she said. “I believed them and I gave them too much personal information. … We cleared it all up and I got a new Medicare card.”
Since taking office, Nessel created the Elder Abuse Task Force. Some bills executed by the task force are still in process in the state Legislature.
“This was one of my biggest priorities in taking office,” Nessel said. “I’m really proud of the initiatives that we’ve put forward and we’ve turned into legislation, but I’m frustrated that it’s taking so long to pass … because every day that we wait is another day people are being taken advantage of.”
In her talk at the Grand Haven center, Nessel told seniors that “prisoners have more rights than wards under a guardianship,” and that her proposed laws work to give more rights to the wards as far as priority in choosing their guardian and property protection.
“The one thing that we all have in common is this, the good Lord willing, we will all be seniors one day,” she said. “We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity – no more, no less.”
Nessel told seniors they could call her office anytime with any scam-related questions.
Criminal Expungement Fair
Following the senior scam talk, Nessel visited the first Expungement Fair taking place at the Ottawa County Courthouse in Grand Haven.
The fair, hosted by the Ottawa County public defenders office, was open for residents to meet with an attorney and see what records, especially felony charges, they could get removed. At least 10 attorneys from the public defenders office as well as some volunteer attorneys were available at the event on Friday.
“There are people who have been crime-free for many years that can’t get a job, can’t get a driver’s license, they can’t live in certain places they want to live, they can’t get a student loan if they want to get an education,” Nessel said. “It really just stops them from being able to support themselves and their families. To have these old charges on their record for the rest of their life seems like an unfair punishment, and we’re really holding people back, especially right now when we have so many employers that need employees.”