CANTON — Senior citizens in the St. Lawrence County community are being asked to be “hypervigilant” regarding a growth in reported scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
County Office for the Aging Director Andrea M. Montgomery told the Times that clients of her office have been reporting calls from people identifying themselves as being from the Internal Revenue Service or from the U.S. Social Security Administration seeking banking information.
“Scammers are calling them and telling them they are from the IRS, that they need their checking account information to deposit their stimulus checks, or they are saying they are from Social Security and that their check isn’t going to come in the mail and they are asking for checking account information so they can deposit their social security checks,” Mrs. Montgomery told the Times on Monday. “So reminding our older adults that scams are an unfortunate part of any type of disastrous time. They are a part of our everyday life, but and unfortunately they ramp up during a situation like this.”
During Monday night’s County Finance Committee meeting via the legislature’s first Zoom meeting, Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe said he was getting similar reports from the state and federal attorney’s general.
He told lawmakers he will be working with the state and federal agencies to stop any potential scams and advised the public to contact his office at 315-379-2222 if they suspect they are the target of a scam.
Mrs. Montgomery is also reminding the public and her elderly clients to never give out their debit or credit card information over the phone and that no one from agencies like the IRS, Social Security or the American Red Cross will contact them over the phone or come to their homes looking for money, as she said one client experienced.
“I had a report last week of someone saying someone in a regular car, without any identification, pulled up to their house and said that they were Red Cross and they were asking for donations and I said that is not what Red Cross does, that’s not going to happen and this is happening locally,” Mrs. Montgomery said. “It is happening, it is here, so really, I say to people, if you don’t know the number, don’t answer. You don’t have to answer the door . . . if you don’t know the person, you don’t have to answer the door. Report it to their local police department.”
Agencies will ordinarily contact customers and the public by mail, Mrs. Montgomery advises the public, and said if anyone is nervous over any suspect mail asking for personal banking or other information, they can call the Office for the Aging at 315-386-4730 and they will assist.