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Warning on Scams Claiming to Support Ukraine

by Cathy Rowe, DrPH, Executive Director, NJAAW

Unfortunately, we have seen this over and over: Well-meaning older adults who want to support a good cause become the targets or victims of a scam

Why Are There Scams About Ukraine?

Let’s be clear – the people of Ukraine need our support and help. Lives are disrupted, infrastructure is destroyed and peoples’ health, welfare and lives are at risk.

Scam artists are despicable when they take the focus on a crisis and use it to try and rob well-meaning people. 

NJ has a high number of Ukrainian immigrants – the 4th largest community in the United States.  Many came over in the 1980s to work and raise their families, and are now retired. The headquarters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is based here in South Bound Brook, at St. Andrew Memorial Church.

We know the compassion and concern are real. We just want to make sure the support that people want to give gets to the right place – and not in some scammer’s pocket.

We know the compassion and concern are real. We just want to make sure the support that people want to give gets to the right place – and not in some scammer’s pocket.

Why Do Scammers Target Older Adults?

We have this struggle – while we want to help older adults with technology and close the digital divide, we also do not want to expose them to fraud. We want people to be safe and be cautious online.

If you get emails asking for donations, check the address it came from. Do not open an email or click on a link unless you really know where it is from. If you go to a website to get information or to donate, make sure you are going to the site you want and have not been redirected to another site with a similar name. 

Also, the problems aren’t only online. There has been no slowdown in telemarketing scams.

Telemarketing has become an easy way for fraudsters to scams seniors. Many seniors will always pick up the phone – and have been doing so all of their lives. Since we are in our homes more because of COVID or the cold weather, we hear that phone ringing. As our partners at Senior Medicare Patrol advise: If you receive a call and you do not recognize the caller’s telephone number, do not pick up the call. Let your answering machine screen all of your calls.

How to Help Ukraine

Our advice is to donate through an organization you know and trust, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. Locally, if your house of worship is organizing something to help the people of Ukraine, or if there is a Ukrainian church or synagogue you know that is doing something, that might be the best way to ensure that your help will really get there. Also, large church-based charities, usually covering a diocese or synod, are trustworthy places to donate to if they have set up a fund for Ukraine.

We also see that some news stations have screened organizations that are helping Ukraine and are posting this information on their broadcasts as well as on their websites. 

Fighting Scams on Any Topic

Be sure that you never feel intimidated or pressured to give money or any personal information to someone you don’t know. If you feel pressure, hang up the phone. If someone, by phone or email, is trying to make you feel flustered or dumb, know that you are not. Scammers are smart, persistent and only need to trick one person to make money.

Also, while it may be hard, share your experience with others. Tell people about the calls or emails you’ve received that seem suspicious so that they can learn. You will be providing a service by sharing our experience with others.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, report it to cyber.nj.gov or AARP’s toll-free fraud helpline at 1-877-908-3360.

Finally, always keep up your vigilance:

  • Do not respond to emails if you do not know the source
  • Initiate calls or conversations yourself
  • Double-check the website address if you want to donate online – make sure you weren’t redirected
  • Trust your instincts, not your emotions

Cathy Rowe, DrPH, was interviewed on PIX 11 TV on this topic. Click here to see the video clip and read the news report.

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