By CLINT FOSTER
Just last month, a Palo Pinto County jury convicted Paula Kay Freeman, 43, who pleaded guilty of writing 66 hot checks worth $27,300 out of a 73-year old Vietnam veteran’s account. Freeman was smacked with a $10,000 fine, $27,300 in restitution and a 75-year sentence in prison.
In light of this recent verdict, Palo Pinto County District Attorney Mike Burns will give a presentation at the Mineral Wells Senior Center at 1 p.m. Friday, after the center’s monthly fried-catfish dinner. Burns’ presentation will cover the prevalence of identity theft and how senior citizens can protect themselves from falling victim to scams from people similar to Freeman. The presentation is free and open to the public.
“I have a PowerPoint put together on protecting yourself, especially as elderly, because these identity thieves target the elderly,” Burns said.
“I’m just going to give a general overview of what’s going on and who to call and how to safeguard their stuff. We’ll be talking about safeguarding banking information, such as checks and debit cards, about responding to fraudulent telephone calls that ask for things like dates of birth and social security numbers and scams through the mail that say, ‘You have won something. Please fill out this questionnaire to claim your prize.’ Things like that,” he said.
Burns said these scams can take many forms, including emails, telephone calls and door-to-door visits. He said his family is quite familiar with such scams that target seniors.
“My mother, who’s 88 and lives in Mineral Wells, has been approached on three occasions in the last month with a scam trying to get money from her,” he said.
At Friday’s talk, he said he will especially focus on Internet use and cellphone proficiency. He added that, although many seniors have a firm grasp on the Internet, many more may receive a smart phone from their kids or grand kids and simply not understand how to use it, outside of making a call.
This event comes less than a week before National Senior Citizen Day, on Aug. 21. Burns said his presentation is certainly in conjunction with the holiday.
“Us seniors have got to stick together,” he joked. “We need a day just to remember what we did yesterday.”
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