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Council says elderly falling victim to phone scams

An advocacy group warns that someone is trying to scam the elderly out of their money.

The Area Council on Aging said someone is calling Valley elderly and making them believe that if they send money, they'll get more cash in return in the future.

Scott Hawthornthwait, of the Phoenix division, said that in some cases, the elderly even believe they're going to win some sort of lottery prize.

He did not say what prize they are fictitiously being offered.

"It often starts with a phone call from a very friendly person, to gain the victim's confidence," said Hawthornthwait.

He added that even after taking steps to prevent being duped, the elderly are still falling for scam artists.

"We've even had clients where we have changed their phone number, and they will give the new number to the scammer, because they are so convinced that they are going to win a prize," Hawthornthwait said.

In most cases, the victims are too ashamed to report the crime. One even told the council "I'm 80 years old. I should have known better."

Hawthornthwait said that in some cases, scammers who are located here in the United States are actually faking victims into believing that they are calling from overseas.

"They call in the middle of the night and say that they are calling from another country to excuse the time difference," he said. "They're very convincing. They don't often ask for money upfront but later, [they] will gain the confidence of the person to send X amount of money...[and] that they, in turn, will receive more money in the future."

Hawthornthwait said that if you have elderly relatives living alone, it would be good to talk with them and make sure they know not to take the bait.

If they do get a scam phone call, it is also important they call either the police or the Arizona Attorney General's Office to report the crime.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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