Murray • Jill Duke of South Jordan was helping her 96-year-old mother buy a three-wheel, adult electric bicycle she found online at an amazing price — but something didn’t seem right.
“It said if you want the best deal on this bike, you have to pay by check. I thought, ‘That doesn’t seem right,’” especially when the site then asked for her mother’s bank routing number. So, they clicked another option to pay by credit card — but the site still insisted that they send a photo of her check.
That was the clear sign Duke needed to declare, “This is a scam.” Still, she said her mother “was pretty mad at me because she really wanted the bike,” and “she just didn’t really think that people would do that.”
But as Duke reported the site to the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Consumer Protection Division, she was told it likely was a scam — and that she did the right thing by walking away from it.
Duke appeared with business and senior groups at the Utah Retail Merchants Association in Murray on Monday to urge Congress to pass legislation that would create a federal council to research how to stop scams, and better spread the word to help seniors spot and avoid them.
“Last year alone, more than 17,000 Utah seniors were victims of fraud, resulting in over $9 million in losses,” said Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah. “We must do everything we can discuss to stop these scams and to protect innocent victims.”
Alan Ormsby, director of AARP Utah, said, “We encourage the House of Representatives to move this important bill to the House floor and towards enactment, recognizing that scams are pervasive and increasingly a problem,” especially for seniors.
Dave Davis, president and CEO of the Utah Retail Merchants Association and the Utah Food Industry Association, said merchants support the bill because they often inadvertently become involved in the scams that they see constantly hurting seniors.
“These older Americans are taken advantage of and come into our stores to either use products, gift cards, other financial instruments that are fraudulent, and we get caught in the middle,” he said.
“I have a mother and a father who are 83 years old,” Davis said. “I have personally witnessed consistent barrages from scammers out there that are wanting to take advantage of our older Americans.”
McAdams said officials have seen an uptick in scams since the coronavirus pandemic hit, and said that is another reason for quick passage of the bill.
“A lot of people are living online right now and making more purchases online — not face-to-face. So, a willingness to conduct business with people who are distant, who are unknown, is more common,” McAdams said.
“So, people’s guard is down because the necessity is up,” he added. “We just want to remind people that you need to be very careful, more careful now than maybe you did even six months ago, because fraudsters are out there. They’re looking to take advantage of people who are in desperate situations.”
He said the Stop Senior Scams Act would bring together government and business partners “to strategize on the most effect techniques that will prevent the fraud before it hits the victim’s wallet.”