RSVP’s Senior Fraud HelpLine receives calls from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. Monday through Friday. The volunteers answering calls have been trained to identify the components of scams and frauds. Trainers are from the Worcester County DA’s Office, the Consumer Rights Program of the Massachusetts AG’s Office, with input from a social worker, the Protective Services Manager of Elder Services, and a retired Inspector for Internal Affairs from MA Dept. of Revenue. When they call the HelpLine, callers will find a peer who may have had a similar experience, a peer trained and knowledgeable about what to do next, and a peer who cares about their fear. A single phone call could save that caller’s finances and mitigate that person’s feelings of isolation in a very difficult situation. This is a third way the Senior Fraud Prevention Initiative helps seniors recognize, resist and report fraud. Referral may also be included and local advocates may be contacted. With phone numbers and names at the fingertips of the HelpLine volunteer, putting the caller in touch with the person or organization who may be most helpful is easy. While retrieving lost money may not be possible, stopping any future loss is likely.
The “Fraud Brigade” offers volunteers “in place” service at their own senior centers in Worcester County. Volunteers are trained in “active listening” so that when approached at their senior center, they know how to calm the sometimes-frantic seniors. Too embarrassed to tell their own families or confused by what a potential scammer has offered or demanded of them, they may not be thinking clearly. Simply having someone to listen as they try to think through their situation may be the best antidote for them. The Fraud Brigade volunteer receives regular updates from the RSVP Coordinator and is aware of many of the warning signals of the epidemic. He or she understands how to ask pertinent questions in ways that help to soothe the senior. If necessary, the senior may be encouraged to call the Senior Fraud HelpLine, or the Fraud Brigade volunteer may offer to place the call for the senior, paving the way for a call to the well-trained volunteer staffing the HelpLine. The goal is to recruit Brigade volunteers for each senior center and some congregate senior housing in the county.
Fraud Squad Players
The “Fraud Squad Players” perform original, scripted scenes depicting current scams and frauds (the possibilities are endless) targeting seniors. This group of volunteers performs three such scenes for senior audiences at each engagement. The scenes may be humorous and serious, depending on the fraud. They are also gender neutral so that all roles-perpetrator or potential victim-may be played by males or females. Each performance is followed by a volunteer-led discussion of the importance of sharing information and concludes with a spokesperson asking for those in attendance to call the Senior Fraud HelpLine if they believe someone is actively attempting to scam or defraud them. Seniors are also encouraged to call if they have sent money and now fear they have been scammed or if they no longer trust that someone in their own family regarding their own finances. Audience members recieve printed material with the Toll-Free number to the Senior Fraud HelpLine-1-800-297-9760.