EDITORIAL: Avoid falling prey to scammers
Jackie Brown isn't the easy mark these scam artists probably hoped to target.
The 82-year-old York City woman immediately recognized their recent letter notifying her of lottery winnings as bogus ("Just pay a $3,650 processing fee!"), and she reported the fraud attempt to authorities.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much law enforcement could do.
The state Attorney General's Office directed Brown to York City Police, which forwarded the information on to the FBI.
Lt. Troy Bankert said his department just doesn't have the resources to put a stop to such scams, which have been around for years and often are run outside the United States.
That sounded like a cop out to Brown, who said she doesn't think government officials are doing enough to protect seniors from the people trying to fleece them.
"If they really cared and wanted to catch (scam artists), they'd be caught," she said.
While we understand Brown's frustration, we think there's more to cracking these crimes than desire.
The perpetrators often are sophisticated international criminals operating safely beyond the reach of local authorities.
It seems to us it will take an equally sophisticated, coordinated, international effort to bring them down.
Actually, what Brown did next might have more of a positive impact than simply reporting the crime.
She publicized it, hoping to help other senior citizens avoid being victimized.
"Some seniors don't have anyone to help," Brown said. "Something has to be done to help these people. People get (money from) seniors any way they can."
Fortunately, there are a number of sites online that track scams so seniors can avoid them.
AARP.org, for example, offers a Fraud Map Network where visitors can check for the latest frauds in their area. The site allows people to sign up for network alerts so they can "stay up to date on con artists' latest tricks" and find out what to do if they've been victimized.
The National Council on Aging (www.ncoa.org) has a similar site, as does the FBI at www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors.
We urge everyone to check them out and discuss the ideas with friends and loved ones.
Law enforcement might not be able to stop these scammers — but they'd be a lot less successful if more seniors were as savvy as Jackie Brown.