At 77, Sun Lakes resident Marc Ross is learning how to use a computer and he wants to protect himself from Internet scams and viruses that may find their way into his e-mail box.
So he became a Senior Sleuth.
Ross was among more than 30 seniors who attended Attorney General Terry Goddard’s Senior Anti-Crime University’s Senior Sleuth program Wednesday at the Sun Lakes Center of Chandler-Gilbert Community College. The program provides tips and advice to avoid becoming a crime victim.
The topics ranged from simple personal safety issues such as not letting unsolicited, unknown people into your home to high-tech fraud schemes that might find their way in via personal computers.
“I’m just starting to use a computer, so I wanted to learn some information that would be important to know when getting on the Internet,” said Ross. “I found this program very helpful and received some valuable information. Now, I can go home and tell my wife what I learned.”
Law enforcement officials say seniors are sometimes isolated from their families and more vulnerable to scams and other crimes such as identity theft. They more freely provide personal information over the phone to someone posing as an IRS agent, a charity or even a representative of a bank, authorities say.
“Never give out your personal information over the phone,” said Bob Brown, who retired from the Pinal County Attorney Office’s Elder Abuse Task Force and is now teaching seniors in Senior Sleuth programs across the state.
“No government agency such as the IRS will ask you for personal information over the phone,” Brown said. “They already have it. “No bank will notify you over the Internet that your account is in jeopardy or possibly will be closed and ask to enter your account number and other personal information and e-mail it back to them.”
For protection against viruses and scammers, Brown suggested purchasing spyware from a reputable computer or electronics store and installing firewall software to help avoid problems.
“By opening e-mails and communicating only with people you know or regularly correspond with, it greatly reduces your chances of encountering problems on the computer or being contacted by someone running a scam,” Brown said.
During another class about identity theft protection, Tom Reade, unit chief of the Attorney General’s Crime, Fraud and Victim Resource Center, told seniors that 95 percent of mail theft is liked to identity theft. Document shredders can help alleviate the threat of dumpster divers going through trash and stealing discarded mail.
Mary Kaye Allen, director of the Sun Lakes Center, said there hasn’t been a problem with crimes in the retirement community. But she said she decided to schedule the program because continuing education in crime prevention is important for any age.
“I’m interested in the well-being of our community,” Allen said. “Sometimes older people don’t have much social contact and these scammers come along and take advantage of them. We can’t grow old alone, we must be a community.”