EDITORIAL: Seniors must stay alert
- Scammers targeting seniors have victimized York County residents.
- Thieves are using ever-evolving and sophisticated methods.
- Stay alert, and when in doubt, call 911 to verify someone's identity.
Ours is an ever-changing world.
And for the senior population of York County, it has become a world in which scammers seek to take advantage — or worse.
That’s why we urge vigilance against ever more brazen criminals who are using sophisticated and unique tactics that tend to prey on the good will of senior citizens.
Late last month, two elderly York County residents — living some 40 miles apart — were victimized by similar scams when burglars disguised as workers lured them away from their homes in order to rob them. One man presented himself as a state Department of Transportation worker and lured an 86-year-old woman outside while his partners in crime removed a heavy floor safe and jewelry from her home.
In the other instance, a man told a resident he had done work on her home and demanded a cash payment. He then asked to use her bathroom and took the rest of the cash the 90-year-old woman had hidden in her home.
Senior citizens often are the targets of scams, according to Lt. David Lash of Northern York County Regional Police.
"They tend to be a more trusting generation and take people at face value," he said. "They also tend to have a higher likelihood of having cash in their residence."
That's because many older Americans lived through the Great Depression "and tend to keep their money close at hand," Lash said.
He urged everyone, not just seniors, to keep their house and car doors locked at all times — "even if you live in the middle of nowhere."
Seniors are targeted for other scams, as well, often involving telephone calls. In one such scam, according to the York County Elder Abuse Task Force, criminals use Medicare cards to obtain personal information — or they make phone calls demanding payment and threatening that benefits will be cut off.
In another telephone scam, officials say scammers call people, asking, "Can you hear me now?" and recording the "yes" response to use later for fraudulent purchases. The speaker also might mention a malfunctioning headset.
Another scam making the rounds finds thieves reaching into the passenger seat of vehicles when owners are pumping gas to remove wallets and purses.
No matter the tactic, one thing remains clear. If the situation seems odd in any way, or is the slight bit unusual, take a step back. Don’t open your door to someone you don’t know. You may tell them, through a closed door, you’d like to call authorities to confirm their identity before talking with them.
Police advise calling the company the person says they are from — or better yet, 911 — if you need verification.
"Our officers will be happy to come out and make sure they're legitimate," Lash said.
It’s a sad but true reality: You can’t trust some people. It’s important to be ever more vigilant in this ever-evolving world.