It can be a congratulatory phone call announcing a seven-figure lottery prize — all that’s needed is to wire $1,000 or so for taxes. Other times it’s a fast-talking man at the door, offering a discounted price on surplus asphalt.
It’s no secret that senior citizens can fall victim to scams both in their neighborhoods and over the phone. Now, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office is becoming the latest in the state to enlist seniors to fight back.
This month, Sheriff Tim Leslie announced that Dakota County will join the state’s chapter of TRIAD, a nonprofit networking group that links seniors to law enforcement and community services. The rollout began with an information booth at the county fair. The sheriff’s office will formally debut TRIAD later this fall with an inaugural meeting yet to be scheduled.
“[Seniors are] overvictimized probably more today … than when I was growing up in that they’re susceptible to trickery and deceit,” Leslie said.
The share of Dakota County residents who are 65 and older grew to more than 10 percent in 2012 and was 11.6 percent in 2013, according to the most recent census data. Statewide, that number was nearly 14 percent in 2013.
“We are obviously seeing an aging population in the state and there’s no shortage in scams and frauds that criminals are coming up with,” said Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake, who is president of Minnesota TRIAD.
After last year’s election cycle, Lake recruited newly elected sheriffs to join the group. She said the addition of Dakota County pushes the chapter’s membership to nearly two dozen.
At the Dakota County Fair, deputies also handed out magnetized medical information packets, called the File of Life, that can be placed on a refrigerator in clear view of medical personnel responding to an emergency call. The packet contains emergency contacts, a list of medical conditions and whether the resident has “do not resuscitate” paperwork.
Meanwhile, Commander John Grant volunteered to take the lead on introducing TRIAD in Dakota County. Grant said many crimes that involve defrauding seniors go unreported out of embarrassment. Some cases that do get reported can be difficult to track down if they involve money orders sent to a scammer on the other side of the world.
“My parents are getting up to the 80s in age, and it would just kill me to find out they’re getting taken advantage of,” Grant said.
TRIAD meetings can be monthly or quarterly, Lake said, and can be as simple as a coffee social or involve a larger gathering with a speaker. Members also receive quarterly newsletters that share tips on burglary prevention, how to identify scammers and even recipes — the latest for a cabbage roll casserole.
Aside from crime prevention, winter driving and wellness will be among other future topics of discussion in Dakota County, Leslie said. He also views TRIAD as a chance to determine the best methods for sharing news with seniors, be it in print or online.
“We just want them to not be afraid to call 911,” Leslie said. “Get us out there. That’s what we do well.”