Stay safe out there…

Posted March 18, 2014, at 11:20 a.m.

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 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 of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department and vice 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 and has been going strong ever since. Nationally, the first Triad was established in Washington, D.C. in 1988 and was comprised of the 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. Files of Life are available in Bangor at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.

The Triad Drop Drop-Off Box enables seniors to dispose of their expired medications safely.

Another safety project the Triad developed is the 911 House Numbering Sign, which was designed to make homes easily identified by emergency personnel. These reasonably priced 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.

Visit the Triad table and drop off your expired medication at the 8th Annual Senior Expo, Tuesday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of community education at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812 or visit www.EAAA.org.

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