GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Safeguarding senior citizens against fraud and scams was the focus of a conference in Gautier on Friday, where Jackson County law enforcers taught seniors how to avoid getting ripped-off.
"One thing these scam artists do is they target our senior adults," said Sheriff Mike Ezell, who spoke to the group of about 100 senior adults.
The sheriff cautioned seniors to watch what kind of information they share on the Internet, and not to be afraid to hang-up on an aggressive telemarketer.
"If somebody calls you and they're asking you for information and they tell you they're from the bank, or from the IRS or from the sheriff's office. they're lying," Ezell said.
The sheriff says even more threatening are those who prey on seniors door-to-door with schemes and scams.
"Don't let people in the house. If somebody comes up and knocks on your door and is trying to sell you something, don't let them in the house. Cause if they get in the house, it's over," said Ezell.
Judge Neil Harris spoke to the group about creating wills, and seeking legal advice for probate issues.
"Ignore scare tactics like, 'Get this will kit for $9.99 and avoid probate.' What they ought to add to that is, 'And get yourself a big lawsuit in the meantime,'" said Judge Harris.
Seniors are often targeted by criminals because they appear vulnerable.
"Make them feel like they're helping someone, as in charity....or get into their home for a security system to make them safer. It takes advantage of their vulnerability," said Jackson County resident, Sally Walley.
Frauds is among the more frequent crimes against the elderly, including prizes and sweepstakes.
"'You've won $10,000. All you need to do is send a $200 handling fee and we'll be able to get you that money in no time.' Well you know what, don't believe 'em," advised Assistant District Attorney, Kathlyn Van Buskirk.
Along with the speakers, seniors were invited to dispose of old financial records with an on-site shredding service.
The sheriff also told the senior citizens that if they do become victims, be sure and report the crime. Residents don't have to be ashamed or embarrassed, but need to help law enforcement follow-up on such fraud.