The prevalence of scams continues to grow as scammers become more skilled at defrauding the most vulnerable communities. LaDonna Koebel, executive director of the Office of Senior Protection and Mediation Office of the Attorney General, says the pandemic has given scammers an advantage. “The scams have been worse now, because people have been more isolated. They are more apt to answer the phone,” she says.
Their office serves two purposes: The first part of their duties focus on consumer complaints related to products and services. This service is available to people of all ages. If a consumer believes a business has sold a bad product to them, the office can intervene on behalf of the consumer. “The mediation service is a courtesy, but it also helps us to identify when there are trends in the business world that are taking advantage of Kentucky consumers,” she says.
The second function of the office is based on outreach and education. Their group assists older adults who have been victims of scams, and they arrange forums —- either in-person or online — to educate them about how scams work. “We talk to them about all of the different ways scammers are trying to make money and defraud them.” LaDonna says often scammers will either send a friend request through social media or find other ways of playing on the emotions of a victim. “We try to help them understand how to protect their privacy and have a social existence without being scared and not releasing so much information that they become a victim,” she says.
LaDonna says one of the most common scams happening is the utility scam. The scammer calls the victim’s home to tell them they haven’t received their utility payment and threaten to cut-off their utilities unless they receive payment immediately. “Never take a phone call for granted, and don’t call a number meant to be returned.”
BY TIFFANY WHITE