Attorney for senior citizens urges Western NY’ers to protect elderly from financial predators

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Each year, senior citizens are scammed out of $36 billion and earlier this week, we told you about an elderly homeowner who nearly added thousands of dollars to that toll. First, she called on her son for help, then they dialed up Call 4 Action.

A stranger knocked on Katie Smith’s door and convinced her to pay $7,000 to pave her driveway with asphalt leftover from a neighbor’s project. The Buffalo grandmother got some help from her son, but the most important advice came from a bank teller.

“I got a knock on the backdoor here, and I came to the door, and it was a man standing there,” Smith said.

That man didn’t tell Katie Smith how much it would cost to pave her driveway until the job was done, and he convinced her to take out a check for $7,000.

“And I say, well, I don’t know, I don’t have that kind of money. I said if I had everything in my bank account I would not have that kind of money,” Smith added.

But a teller at Katie’s bank, the KeyBank on Broadway, suspected she was about to be scammed and advised Katie to consult with her son Stan before signing the check.

The scammers backed off.

“So do you think the bank teller was very helpful? Very helpful because she would have came back here and just gave $7,500 to some people,” Katie’s son Stan Smith told News 4.

Managing Attorney for the Center for Elder Law and Justice Helen Zaffram told us, “And the scams that are out there are getting more sophisticated by the day.”

While Katie Smith seems to be able to handle her financial affairs, it was her son and an alert bank teller that put up the firewall preventing her from a devastating loss. Zaffram told us, the center works closely with law enforcement and banks.

“To be able to reach out to that customer to see if this is a scam situation, are they being exploited by a family member or just a complete stranger?” Zaffram said.

Zaffram says with more aging “baby boomers” feeling socially isolated, it is more important than ever for loved ones to act as agents to oversee their well-being.

“There is some capacity issue that then causes them to not be able to pay their bills, not be able to do financial kinds of things, and then the agent steps in to help them,” said Zaffram.

After our interview, Katie got a call from a “loved one” who had been arrested in Colombia and desperately needed money for bail. Katie says he didn’t even sound like her nephew, and she hung up.

Maybe that’s one number scammers should scratch from their “sucker list.”

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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