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Hot Weather Heats Up Telephone Scams Against the Elderly
From:
Pamela D. Wilson -- Caregiving Expert, Advocate & Speaker Pamela D. Wilson -- Caregiving Expert, Advocate & Speaker
Golden , CO
Monday, July 22, 2019


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Golden, Colorado – July 22, 2019

Hot Weather Heats Up Telephone Scams Against the Elderly

Golden CO- Caregiving expert, Pamela D. Wilson reports being a potential victim of a financial scam targeted at the elderly and vulnerable populations. She was contacted by a scammer posing as a customer service representative of Xcel Energy in Denver, Colorado.

The timing of the scam is relevant to the heatwave throughout the United States and the threat of having electricity disconnected for non-payment. Many elderly adults are susceptible to heat and would be greatly concerned about having their electricity turned off; this concern makes the elderly more vulnerable to utility scams.

The telephone scam begins with a "spoof" call from Xcel Energy. The request seems real. Xcel Energy music plays, and the voice on actual Xcel recordings is the voice on the recording. The number of the call comes from the Xcel Energy main number. The recorded statement asks callers to remain on the line because the electricity at their home is scheduled to be disconnected within hours.

After a brief hold, the call is transferred to a live scammer. On this call, the name of the scammer was Benjamin Louis. An explanation was given about non-payment of an electric bill.  According to Pamela, "when I received the call, I was angry because my bill is automatically paid."

The scammer was well prepared with responses to every question and concern. Benjamin explained that there must have been a posting problem with the payment. He assured that an investigation would be completed. Benjamin went so far as to generate a ticket number for the inquiry.

The scammer, Benjamin, went on to say that a two-month payment had to be made as soon as possible in the amount of $465.45 or the electricity would be turned off. If a discrepancy was later identified after the investigation was completed, 2 months of free electricity would be provided to compensate for the payment made today.

A technician was reported to be en route to the house to disconnect the electricity within a 30-minute time frame. Benjamin gave the name of the technician as being David Fage with a phone number of 720-996-9189.

According to Pamela, "This was the first red flag. I have been a financial power of attorney for clients who had late payment issues. I knew that no one has to show up to disconnect. I also knew that Xcel Energy sends letters and is willing to make payment plans. But I played along. Benjamin asked if I was home and could give the technician cash. My answer was no. The next question was if I could drive downtown and provide a cash payment. My answer was no."

The scammer went on to investigate other options for payment. The alternate solution for not paying the driver directly was to drive to a Walgreens or an Office Depot. Locate a card called "Money Pak."

The card had to be purchased with cash, and then a call could be made to report that the payment. This would stop the technician from visiting to turn off the electricity. Benjamin gave a 90-minute time frame for the payment to be made.

He confirmed that no payment by credit card or a debit from a bank account was allowed as this would take 24-48 hours to post. The payment had to be made as soon as possible.

According to Pamela, after ending the call with scammer Benjamin, contact was made with Xcel Energy who reported there was no delinquent bill. Xcel was asked about the scam. The Xcel representative stated that this type of scam is happening all over the country.

While mention was made of scam warnings being posted on the Xcel Energy website by the representative, no information was listed about this type of scam. When asked why Xcel is not publicizing the scam—so that the elderly can avoid becoming prey to this type of scam—there was no real explanation.

"I did receive a call the next day from an Xcel Energy representative who said they should probably do a YouTube video," according to Pamela. Pamela also made a report to the Denver District Attorney's office and a report was also made to a local television station in Denver.

Financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable populations is common. Whether it's a roofer who shows up after a hail storm, or someone calling over the telephone. Many older adults are not savvy enough to end the call and call their bank, a utility company, or a credit card company to verify that the information from the call was real. Anytime there is a threat and a requirement of cash, the contact is probably a scam.

Because of the declines related to aging, the elderly have more difficulty managing day to day. They more easily become prey to scammers. Scams like these should be publicized, even though they are not.

Companies like Xcel, who is aware of the scam, should place warnings on their websites about all scams so that the information is easily accessible to the public. Too many elderly and vulnerable people likely paid cash to Benjamin and are now placed at a financial disadvantage to pay other bills.

More information about financial issues, caregiving, health, and aging issues are on Pamela's website Pamela D. Wilson is a caregiving expert, activate and speaker with more than 20 years' experience helping caregivers and aging adults.

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Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA, a National Certified Guardian and Certified Senior Advisor, is a caregiving thought leader, elder care expert, advocate, and speaker. Pamela offers family caregivers programming and support to navigate the challenges of providing, navigating, and planning for care. She guides professionals practicing in estate planning, elder and probate law, and financial planning to create plans to address unexpected concerns identified in her past role as a professional fiduciary. Healthcare professionals are supported by Pamela’s expertise to increase responsiveness and sensitivity to the extensive range of care challenges faced by care recipients and caregivers. Contact Pamela HERE

 
Wilson
President/Owner
Pamela D. Wilson, Inc.
Golden, CO
303-810-1816