News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 20, 2012

Partnership aims to reduce fraud against seniors

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new partnership among community agencies is aimed at reducing fraud against senior citizens and enhancing law enforcement services for older people.

On Monday, police and community leaders agreed that setting up a Triad commitment is a good way to fight crimes against the elderly.

Triad is a three-way commitment among the police chiefs, sheriff, prosecutor and others in the community who work with senior citizens.

Michelle Mayer, director of Outreach Services for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, presented Triad to community leaders who agree that having the program in play by next spring’s Fraud and Scam Awareness Program and Expo for Seniors is a possibility.

Sheriff Greg Ewing said the program is needed in Vigo County to help senior citizens avoid scams in person and via the Internet.

“Last year,” Ewing said, “as a fluke we had ‘gypsy’ blacktoppers come through town who were targeting people. For one man, the bank stopped the money because they recognized the scam. But, we couldn’t find the [blacktoppers]. They are ‘gypsies,’ and had probably moved on to some other town.”

Lori Alpin of Senior Education Ministries agreed that seniors are often targeted by scammers, so educating them on what scams look like has been the goal of the expo. Having an organization such as a local Triad can give seniors a contact point for reporting scams and seeking assistance.

“It’s been a matter of waiting for the right time,” Alpin said of setting up Triad locally. “And the time is now.”

Mayer said another good focus for a Triad event is medication collection and disposal for unused or outdated drugs, since it is hazardous to flush medication into the city sewage system. While there have been some drug take-back dates  organized in the past, having an ongoing disposal site for medication can keep those drugs out of the hands of abusers.

Triad is operated by volunteers — usually recently retired senior citizens who are still active and wanting to help others. They can make phone calls, send out emails and mailers, and inform others of active scams in the community, or help victims fill out reports and protect themselves against future scams.

Twenty-one Triad groups exist in the state, covering 23 counties. The goal is to set up a Triad in each of Indiana’s 92 counties, Mayer said.

“As for international scams, there is not a lot that can be done,” she said, referring to email and phone scams, usually offering to award lottery winnings to the “winner” in exchange for cash advance on the “taxes” for the fake prize. “Triad can be a clearing house for such complaints. If it is not a local scam, the best thing you can do is go online to the Federal Trade Commission and fill out a form to report it.”

Volunteers can be trained in what to say to victims, and can follow up on scam investigations. In the case of identity theft, a victim can be helped immediately, she said, but it may take up to three years to clean up any damage done to a person’s credit.

Mayer recommended that the group of 18 leaders meeting Monday — which included Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt, Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse, West Terre Haute Police Chief Don Lark, John Etling of Catholic Charities, Muriel Ryan of Families by Choice, and people from a variety of other agencies representing senior citizens — meet again soon to being formalizing their Triad into a Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) council to carry out programs and activities.

SALT can then conduct a survey to determine the crime safety needs of the local senior community. And active organization can then be in place by the annual fraud and scam expo, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21 at the Vigo County Fairgrounds. Volunteers can then be solicited to help with the organization.

Another Triad organizing session has been set for at 9 a.m. Dec. 12, with the location to be announced. For more information, contact Aplin at LoriAlpin@gmail.com



Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.