For Immediate ReleaseMay 21, 2020
Vulnerable Marin residents targeted, and cybersecurity education is urged
San Rafael, CA – In this time of sheltering and isolation, more older adults are learning how to use technology and are vulnerable to deceiving offers. The County of Marin’s Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) is reminding older adults to be vigilant against scammers and learn more about cybersecurity practices.
“Scams related to the pandemic are proliferating,” said Mark Vanderscoff, the County’s Public Guardian. “We need our older residents to make sure they do not provide personal information, and especially money, to strangers who contact them via phone, email, or texting. The scammers are experts in the game of preying on the vulnerable, earning someone’s trust in a fraudulent way, and then taking advantage of them. Now more than ever, it is important for all of us to be aware and mention this to anyway who might show a tendency to let their guard down and fall victim.”
The FAST team is a coalition of specialists from the Public Guardian, Adult Protective Services, the Ombudsman’s Office – all sectors of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – along with partners from the District Attorney’s Office, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office and other area law enforcement agencies, Legal Aid of Marin, and volunteers from the community.
FAST has experts in real estate, law, financial planning, taxation, accounting, investments, and annuities who know how to spot scams. They all share a common goal: to educate, prevent, and fight against the financial abuse of older and vulnerable adults.
Vanderscoff, whose Public Guardian office manages the property, finances and personal care needs of those adjudicated by the court as substantially unable to provide for themselves, estimated that only about one in five of financial abuse crimes are ever discovered or reported.
“Unfortunately, the victims can be overwhelmed by embarrassment and shame, and they decide not to tell anybody about it,” he said. “It’s especially unfortunate when stolen funds are needed for basics like housing, food, and medical care.”
The best way to avoid the stigma is through education and communication. FAST team urges older adults to speak up with families and trusted friends about any requests they experience for personal information. Adults who have older parents who are new to using technology should pay attention to unusual banking transactions, notices of insufficient funds, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums, and the closing of accounts without regard to penalties.
Cybersecurity best practices can be found at StaySafeOnline.org, a site offered by the National Cybersecurity Alliance.
Individuals who wish to report abuse or consult on matters related to scams and financial abuse should contact Adult Protective Services at (415) 473-2774. The District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit can be reached at (415) 473-6495.
Mark VanderscoffPublic Guardian's OfficeHealth and Human Services
10 North San Pedro Rd.Suite 1023San Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-7185Email: Mark VanderscoffMarin HHS website