Who doesn’t shudder when they hear that a senior has been victimized by a ruthless scam artist? How often do we utter, “Something needs to be done about this. We need to protect our seniors.”
Something is being done. The Penobscot County Triad is a non-profit organization comprised of law-enforcement, social services and seniors themselves who all work together to provide education about scams, fraud and elder abuse with a goal of keeping seniors from being victimized.
“Due to the aging of our population and the increasing demands on law enforcement and social service agencies, it’s important that these agencies and law enforcement work together to address the growing needs of senior citizens,” said Troy Morton, Chief Deputy and chair of the Penobscot County Triad. “We are committed to ensuring the safety of our seniors and are dedicated to giving them the tools they need to protect themselves.”
The Penobscot County Triad began more than a decade ago when senior advocate, Charlie Sias, attended a fraud fighters training session in Bangor in 1999. Other attendees included senior citizens, law enforcement officers and representatives from social services agencies including Roberta Downey, then executive director of Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
As the story goes, at the end of the session it was kismet. Sias and Downey looked at each other and said in unison, “This is something we ought to do.” Together they made Penobscot County Triad a reality on September 8, 1999.
Nationally, the first Triad was established in Washington D.C. in 1988 and was comprised of AARP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs’ Association. The goal then, as it is today, was to educate seniors about the various types of fraud and crimes, to help reduce fear and provide moral support for older persons and to use trained volunteers to assist police and sheriff departments.
Seniors are a trusting population, raised in a time when deals were sealed with handshakes and a man’s word was his bond. It is a special kind of wickedness that takes advantage of this trust.
Among the projects that the Penobscot County Triad has developed is the File of Life, a free, red plastic pocket that adheres to the refrigerator via magnet and contains a senior’s pertinent personal information, such as medications conditions so paramedics will have a clear picture of the person’s health when they respond to a call. The Files are available in Bangor at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
Another safety project developed by Triad is the 911 House Numbering Sign, which was designed to make homes easily identified by emergency personnel. Reasonably priced, these metal signs are covered with highly-reflective material ensuring that your house will not be missed by an ambulance or police.
Penobscot County Triad offers some tips to help seniors protect themselves against telemarketing fraud as well:
—Never give out credit card or checking account information over the phone unless you are sure you are dealing with a reputable firm. And never reveal your social security number.
—Refuse to rush into anything. Fraudulent telemarketers are trained to be aggressive but don’t be intimidated. Hang up if you start to feel uncomfortable. High-pressure tactics are a sign of criminal activity.
—If the caller offers to send someone “right over” to pick up your payment or donation – hang up.
—Asking for something in writing rarely offers protection as the caller can be just as devious through the mail as on the phone and with today’s technology, professional looking brochures are but a mouse click away.
While there is no shortage of scammers intent on separating you from your money, take heart that the Penobscot County Triad is in your corner.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.