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Police: Atherton seniors were conned out of $80K this week

Police chief warns residents to look out for financial scams
An Atherton police car. Embarcadero Media file photo.

Atherton police are warning residents about recent financial scams preying on seniors, two of which were reported in town this week.

On Sunday, July 9, a resident was contacted by phone by a scammer posing as a police officer, saying that the resident's bank accounts had been compromised, according to a July 11 letter to residents from Police Chief Steve McCulley. The scammer told the resident he could fix the problems if the resident sent him a cashier's check for $70,000, which he did.

In the second, on Monday, July 10, scammers contacted elderly residents in person at their home, and told that their grandson had been in a serious car accident and he needed $10,000 immediately. The residents gave the scammers $10,000.

"The consequences of falling victim to these scams can be devastating, both financially and emotionally," McCulley said. "Many seniors have lost their life savings, experienced a decline in their mental health, and even suffered a loss of trust in their own communities. It is our responsibility as a caring and supportive community to act and help protect our elderly residents from these unscrupulous individuals."

McCulley said that the scams can take place over the phone, email, social media and even in-person interactions. Scammers may pose as representatives from financial institutions, government agencies, or charitable organizations, seeking personal information, money, or access to financial accounts.

In both incidents McCulley described, the residents were told not to tell anyone about the incident. He noted this is a key phrase which signals that it is a scam.

To stop the scams, McCulley lists recommendations, including telling residents to reach out to friends and family if they have encountered any potential scams and encouraging them to be cautious when sharing sensitive details over the phone, online or in-person.

Often, victims of financial scams can feel too embarrassed to tell family members or contact the police, McCulley said.

"It is extremely important that the police department be contacted so we can initiate an investigation, help to recover the lost money, and work to identify and arrest the scammers," he said.

The phone number for the Atherton Police Dispatch Center is 650-688-6500.

Age-friendly committee

Vice Mayor Diana Hawkins-Manuelian, Council member Elizabeth Lewis and City Manager George Rodericks have formed a standing committee to participate in San Mateo County Age-Friendly Community Task Force. The council approved the standing committee appointments at a June 21 meeting.

The standing committee will work with the Center for Age Friendly Excellence (CAFE) staff to seek community leaders that have knowledge and care about the issues

of older adults. The county task force members will meet about once a month for about five months to help CAFE staff recruit older adult focus group members and share news about age-friendly initiatives, according to a staff report.

CAFE staff will conduct the focus groups to determine unmet needs, assist in developing recommended potential projects and services to address those needs. CAFE provides guidance to task force members toward the selection of data-informed projects. The final reports will be provided to the City Council and the process will be incorporated into the town's housing element as part of the town's resident outreach and engagement process, according to the staff report.


About the Author: Angela Swartz

Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business.
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