Caroline Harr knows what it is like to be targeted by scammers.

The resident of Solstice Senior Living received back braces, leg braces, ankle braces and other such devices — a dozen in all — after being contacted over the phone by people who wanted her Medicare information.

“One day the UPS driver came to the door and there was four boxes,” she said.

The costs ranged up to $1,800 and while the money came from Medicare, Harr said, she has been targeted by others with a variety of pitches. There are so many scammers that she receives up to a dozen calls each day, which she has learned to ignore.

“I just got a call on Friday and they said I was supposed to go ahead and call this number so they could go ahead and get this straightened out before they come and take me to jail,” Harr said. “I just canceled it off the machine today.”

Harr on Tuesday attended a presentation by Attorney General Eric Schmitt at Solstice, where he went over types of frauds that target senior citizens. He provided information on how to react and how to contact law enforcement so there’s a chance of catching the scammers.

Schmitt made the presentation as one of four stops around the state to highlight his office’s power to investigate consumer issues. The first stop was Monday in St. Louis and the week concludes with similar presentations Wednesday in Jefferson City and Thursday in Cape Girardeau.


As examples of his office’s work, Schmitt said his attorneys successfully prosecuted 19 individuals for Medicaid fraud and, working with federal prosecutors, stopped a sweepstakes scam run out of Kansas City by two companies called Opportunities Unlimited Publications Inc. and Contest America Publishers Inc. that had reaped up to $30 million from consumers nationwide.

Email and telephone scams are more sophisticated than the fly-by-night contractors and mail fraud scams that have long existed, Schmitt said.

Bad actors “spoof” telephone numbers by making them appear official or local to hide their true intent, he said, noting that the Boone County Sheriff’s Department on Monday warned that people should not believe anyone who calls asking for bank and credit card information to pay court fines or costs to avoid arrest.

“Never give out sensitive information over the phone,” Schmitt said. “Debt collectors can’t arrest you.”

Agencies such as the Social Security Administration or the IRS never contact people by phone, Schmitt said. He urged the about 40 people who attended to ignore callers claiming to be from those agencies.

A typical fraud used to fool elderly uses their affection for their grandchildren, Schmitt said. An email or text message, supposedly from a friend or parent of the grandchild, asks for money to help them out of trouble or purchase a gift.

The best response is to independently verify the message, Schmitt said.

“If they purport to be from friends, asking for money orders, that they need money immediately, it is probably a scam,” Schmitt said.

Everyone should protect their bank account numbers, credit card numbers and other financial information and never give it out to anyone who they don’t trust, Schmitt said.

Some scammers want to take over computers to obtain that information and claim to be from tech companies working to fix problems, Schmitt said.

“You are not going to get an unsolicited email from your internet provider or Apple, that’s just not going to happen,” Schmitt said.

Harr said Schmitt’s presentation was helpful and she already practices many of the methods he suggested for protecting herself. She doesn’t answer the telephone for numbers she doesn’t recognize and she doesn’t send money in response to mail solicitations from groups claiming they can protect her Social Security benefits.

During his presentation, Schmitt gave some age-old advice that he said remains valid in the electronic age.

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.