Information Could Protect Elderly From Fraud

Gulfport police are using education to keep the elderly from falling into the clutches of con artists. They passed on the information at Wednesday's Senior Crime Prevention Expo.

Josie West believes have been better informed about fraud could have saved her from learning about con artists the hard way. The 79-year-old says a salesperson called her promising telephone service with free long distance and call waiting.

"So I said yes," said West. "But when I was getting the bill it wasn't free. I really got in trouble with it."

At the Senior Expo, senior citizens got information on how to keep the bodies and their finances healthy.

"Sometimes as you do get up in age and the older you get you do become a prey," said Gulfport police officer Alfred Sexton. "So this also gives us an opportunity to talk to them about avoiding becoming a victim of a crime, whether it's a get rich quick type scheme or allowing someone access to your checking or your savings account."

The accounts of elderly customers are closely monitored by banks for warning signs like large withdrawals.

Bill Magnusen is the security director for Hancock Bank.

"We train our tellers to ask questions about that. Are they sure that's what they want to do. West says her daughter was able to get her out of the telephone disaster - an experience that has made her a skeptic about so called "good deals."

"Now... when I get a call like that I say, 'No Sir,' and I tell them, 'Have a nice day,'" said West.

Here are some other tips from the Gulfport Police Department on avoiding fraud and identity theft.

* Don't give out personal information over the phone.

* Shred personal information before you throw it away.

* Don't allow strangers into your home.

Workers from the Social Security office are also advising people to take their social security numbers off their drivers licenses and checks.