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Doug Shadel 

Seniors learn to avoid being victims of fraud

GOFFSTOWN — Seniors are learning how to outsmart scam artists by taking a peek in the con man playbook.

Doug Shadel, state director of AARP Washington and author of “Outsmarting the Scam Artists” spoke before a full room at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College Tuesday morning. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen also attended the event.

Shadel urged everyone to pass the information on to the people at home.

“We want to equip as many people as we can with the tools to resist,” Shadel said.

Shadel said he interviewed victims and reviewed hundreds of tapes of con man calls to gather information that would help seniors recognize and protect themselves against fraud. Fraud complaints increased from slightly more than 600,000 in 2008 to more than one million in 2012, Shadel said. In 2005, about 20 percent of reported fraud cases involved the Internet. By 2011, that number had risen to 40 percent, he said.

“This is the real movement,” Shadel said “The stuff on the Internet.”

Topping the list of scams in the Granite State are those involving identity theft, debt collection, bank and lender, impostor and shop at home scenarios. He told the audience they would be better able to defend against a scam if they could recognize it from a distance.

At the heart of most scams is the ability to get the victim to act based on emotion rather than logic, Shadel said. Persuasion tactics include profiling, phantom riches, scarcity, and citing credible sources to back sales claims.

“The gift of the con artist is to make the implausible seem plausible,” Shadel said.Con men may begin by drawing the victim into conversation to cull personal information and potential weaknesses, he said. They may resort to tactics including intimidation, social consensus, reciprocity, and comparison. Being placed in a moment of vulnerability may cause people to do something they may not otherwise do, Shadel said.

His advice was to stay in control of a sales call, ask more questions than you answer, research the product before buying and have a refusal script ready to end unwanted sales calls.

“The person who is asking the questions is the person who is in control of the conversation,” Shadel said.

Gatsas said scam artists often prey on seniors because they tend to listen, want to help and may be looking for an investment to help them live more comfortably on a fixed income. He advised the audience to recognize, resist and report fraud immediately. “I look around the room and I tell you, be careful,” Gatsas said.

Charlotte Fahey, of Bedford, said the entire program was extremely helpful but she found the information about the Internet and social media especially interesting.

Barbara Grenon, of Goffstown, agreed that the social media component was interesting.

“I’m going to pass the information on to my grandchildren,” Grenon said.

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