KYW Regional Affairs Council

“Senior Scams — How to Protect Your Parents”


By John McDevitt

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WARMINSTER, Pa. (CBS) — With more and more senior citizens on the World Wide Web and social media sites, efforts are underway to help protect the elderly from online scams.

Seventy-seven year old Dick Blackburn (top photo) is a board member of the computer club at Ann’s Choice, a retirement community in Warminster, Bucks County.

“Seniors are a separate group and in some ways more susceptible to online scams than others,” he notes.

So he tells the silver surfers in his community to be cautious: remember to log off from computers in public spaces, don’t announce that you are going away via Facebook or Twitter, and look out for things like online “fishing” (often spelled phishing) schemes.

He explains that a phishing scammer first approaches the victim via phone or e-mail, pretending to be from the local bank:

“Like, ‘There is trouble with your bank account — please tell us your name, Social Security number and all of this, so we can clarify your account.  And if you don’t do it immediately we are going to shut you off and your checks will bounce,’ and all of this stuff, which of course is a scam.”

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Joe Snyder, director of Older Adult Protective Services at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (below),  says it’s a never-ending battle: “We are never going to stay in front of the scammers.  They are too smart — that’s what they do for a living.”

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(Joe Snyder of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. Credit: John McDevitt)


Snyder says his department gets more than 2,000 calls a year.  Their 18 investigators deal with cases continuously, many involving senior citizens scammed over the phone or online.

He says a special task force has been set up, too, to get the victims the help they need, and to bring those who prey on them to justice, “and we meet monthly with the Philadelphia police, the DA’s office, the financial institutions, and legal service providers to discuss cases.”

The PCA’s helpline is 215-765-9040.  Confidential calls to report abuse may be made by anyone, including the older adult in need.  Investigators are available 24 hours a day.

PCA has much more helpful information available at

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