Texas Senator José Menéndez hosted a Town Hall for seniors and their advocates to help people learn how to avoid fraud and scams that come knocking on the door and could lurk in your email or cell phone.
How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud?
Thanks to underwriting support from the San Antonio Department of Human Services and from Senator Menéndez, anyone can watch this video and find helpful information from the panelists about the work they do to address elder fraud and how you can avoid and report fraud. The Oct. 9, 2019 event was at the Northside Activity Center.
During the Q&A session, people in the audience asked questions about scams, phishing and fraud situations they face every day. (Watch the video or scroll down to read more.)
Click on the panelist’s name to watch video of their remarks:
- Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar
- Ann Cortez, Texas Adult Protective Services
- First Assistant Bexar County D.A., Philip Kazen
- Judge Veronica Vasquez, Probate Court 2
- Lt. Marcus Booth, SAPD Financial Crimes
- San Antonio Chief of Police William McManus
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said there is a “disturbing trend, there is an entire industry out there to target (seniors), hopefully you can take some information with you that you can use.”
Jump directly to his remarks here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=373
Ann Cortez of Texas Adult Protective Services said her agency investigates abuse neglect and exploitation of seniors and incapacitated adults 18 and over. “We received more than 9,000 cases in the last fiscal year, second only to Harris County,” she said. Jump directly to her remarks here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=466
First Assistant Bexar County D.A., Philip Kazen said his boss, District Attorney Joe Gonzales, has put a special focus on violent crime, crimes against children and crimes against the elderly. Here is a link to the Elder Fraud Unit: https://www.bexar.org/1447/Elder-Fraud
Jump directly to his remarks here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=609
Probate Court 2 Judge Veronica Vasquez, who formerly did legal aid work under Catholic Charities, said she is seeing many cases involving probating of wills and guardianship. She urged people to get a power of attorney.
“If you are over the age of 65,and you don’t have a power of attorney, please do that now. Catholic Charities does that for free (learn more at this link: https://ccaosa.org/get-help/#legal-services) Please get that done... It should be anyone you trust and the key word is trust,” she said. Jump straight to her remarks here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1000
San Antonio Chief of Police William McManus said he started an elder crimes unit several years ago, to focus on property crimes committed against seniors. “We do pay special attention to it,” he said. Jump straight to his remarks here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1180
Senator José Menéndez explained the impact of elder fraud. “There are an estimated 5 million cases of elder fraud annually, involving $27 billion loses,” he said. “Texans lost $1.6 billion in 355,000 incidents,” he said. Jump straight to his remarks here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1411
Lt. Marcus Booth, SAPD Financial Crimes, said his office is “working with the U.S. Secret Service to do seizures, and our seizures this year relating to fraud is probably $6 million or $7 million for the year.”
Questions and Answers
Q: What should you do about harassment, bullying, excessive calling?
A: Sheriff Salazar recommended making a police report. (Watch: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1486)
In the City of San Antonio call SAPD: 210 207-7273
In unincorporated Bexar County call: 210-335-6000
Q: How can you identify scams?
A: Chief McManus said SAWS and CPS will never call you and ask you for money over the phone. “Never ever, ever take calls asking you for money over the phone as official. Don’t fall for that, don’t give any money over the phone. All these password schemes. IF they are asking for information don’t give it,” McManus said. (watch: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1633)
Q: How can you tell if someone at the door is legit or a scam?
A: Sheriff Salazar said “We have been told there are scammers out there asking for your Social Security number, then they are off and running. The simplest thing to do if somebody comes to your door, always ask for photo ID We don’t want to be rude to people - I want to take him at his word. We can’t do that any more. (watch: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1780)
A: Lt. Marcus Booth, SAPD Financial Crimes phone fraud is a huge issue these days, and independently researching the number, do that independent research. (watch: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=1886 )
Q: Where can seniors find legal help?
A: Judge Vasquez: ( watch her reply here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=2155 )
Two nonprofits offer free or low-cost services: Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid https://www.trla.org/ or Catholic Charities https://texaslawhelp.org/directory/legal-resource/catholic-charities-archdiocese-san-antonio-caritas-legal-services ; San Antonio Bar Association has Community Justice Program (call (210) 227-8822), AACOG has attorneys on retainer for seniors at this link: https://www.aacog.com/108/Bexar-Area-Agency-on-Aging
Q: How do you know if it is criminal or civil?
A: Booth: Call (210) 207-7451 and police financial crimes unit will respond.
Q: What if someone knocks on the door asking for people’s ID to vote?
A: Senator Menéndez: Don’t answer the door for people who are asking for your ID
Q: How can you protect identity information?
A: We deal with identity theft a lot, says Lt. Booth. He said he was a victim of the Equifax identity theft. “Make a police report. Limit what you carry on yourself every day. Minimize your risk, only carry on you what you can afford to lose. Don’t leave things in your car. Call us and file a report: (210) 207-7451
Part Two of the event starts here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=3803
Q: Who do you call if you think a senior (or yourself!) is being abused or is a victim of neglect or is being financially exploited?
A: Call the Adult Protective Services hotline if you expect someone is being abused, is a victim of neglect or financially exploited: (800) 252-5400
Call the Alamo Service Connection (866) 231-4922,
Outside Bexar County, the Alamo Area Agency on Aging, can provide provide a variety of services to help: Call (210) 477-3275 / (866) 231-4922.
Q: What about phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize?
A: “If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer,” said Senator Menéndez (jump to his answer here: https://youtu.be/A4WgeV0VeJc?t=4901)
A: Sheriff Salazar: “They capitalize on the fact that we don’t want to be rude. A little paranoia is a good thing. Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut and just ignore those phone calls even though it might seem rude.
A: Lt. Booth: “Put your cell phone on Do Not Disturb mode, that will block a lot of these calls.”