By Dedra Cordle
For many, it is an automatic reaction to pick up the phone when it rings, but Becky Priwer has become immune to that inclination.
After years of answering the phone and listening to the person on the other end of the line pitch some scheme, the Jackson Township resident decided enough was enough.
“I screen all of my calls now,” she said. “I just let the machine get it.”
Priwer said it was not just her annoyance with these callers that makes her ignore the ringing phone, but the potential safety risk they pose as well.
“I know a lot of them are scammers,” she said.
Priwer’s method of protection from those looking to take advantage of her is proactive but not everyone knows the proper steps to take in order not to become a victim of phone fraud.
“We had a lady here in Grove City lose $3,000 or $4,000 last year due to one of these phone scams,” said Tom Durflinger, the crime prevention coordinator for the Grove City Division of Police.
He said with this case, the caller pretended to be a grandchild who had gotten into trouble and needed financial assistance. Concerned about her “grandchild,” the woman gave out her personal information and the scammer took advantage.
Durflinger said this scam – known as the grandma or grandpa scam – is a popular one.
“It plays on their sympathy,” he said.
While anyone can become a victim to a scam, Durflinger said senior citizens are most at risk.
“They are targeted more than anyone.”
He said what makes them attractive to scammers is perceived financial stability, good credit and not knowing how to navigate ever-changing and advancing technology.
To combat the growing problem of seniors falling victim to scams, the Grove City Division of Police has teamed up with the Jackson Township Fire Department and the E.L Evans Senior Center to help seniors become more informed and involved with personal safety. The program, which is called Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T), launched on Dec. 10.
Once a month, senior citizens and law enforcement officials will meet at the Evans Center to discuss how to avoid phone scams, how to improve home security and ways to improve personal health.
As a way to help senior citizens make safety improvements to their home, the Jackson Township Fire Department will come out to their homes and look for safety hazards.
“We will do fire inspections, look for trip hazards, check for loose handrails and install working smoke detectors or change batteries in existing ones,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rick Dawson.
Additional services the department will provide are health checks (such as monitoring medicine bottles to make sure they are being taken correctly), and car seat safety inspections for when they are babysitting their grandchildren.
The police department will come out to their homes, check locks on doors and windows, and look at outside shrubbery to make sure they do not pose a safety risk.
Each department, as well as the Evans Senior Center, will help seniors enroll in Smart911.
Priwer, who attended the informational meeting on Dec. 10, said she is excited about S.A.L.T.
“I think this program will be a great thing,” she said. “We all need more information on how to protect ourselves to we can be safe at all times.”
The first official meeting of S.A.L.T will take place at 1 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Evans Senior Center, 4330 Dudley Ave. in Grove City. For more information, contact the senior center at 277-1060.