Elder Law Forum Series Will Offer Tips To Protect Seniors From Consumer Fraud

MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Middlesex County Freeholder H. James Polos, chair of the county’s Law and Public Safety committee, announced a series of seminars designed to help senior citizens with a variety of legal issues, ranging from planning their wills to protecting themselves from thefts by con artists.

The Elder Law Forum, presented by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Outreach and Education, or MORE unit, will show senior citizens how to recognize and avoid common thefts by scammers who want to steal their money over the telephone and internet.

The program also will offer seniors helpful information on guardianships, the preparation of wills, estate planning and probate and trusts. Attorneys from the Middlesex County Bar Association will discuss those topics.

The Elder Law Forum started today with a presentation at the Milltown Senior Center. It was the first of 11 that will be offered at various senior citizen centers in the county through December, Kaplan said.

“These presentations are designed to teach our senior citizens about the potential dangers presented by telephone and internet solicitors, whose only goal is to convince them, in a friendly but deceitful manner, to send money in return for promises of greater cash returns that will never materialize,” Kaplan said.

“It is the goal of the MORE unit to alert our senior citizens to numerous scams, so they will be able to recognize attempts to cheat them and will know the difference between a legitimate charity and an attempt by a scammer to rob them,” Kaplan said.

Polos, liaison to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, has long been an advocate of creating programs that assist senior citizens in Middlesex County.

“While the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders has always offered a full range of services to senior citizens, from transportation to health care, protecting our senior citizens from scam artists is a priority,” Polos said.

“Education, the active involvement of law enforcement, and the willingness of our senior citizens to report suspicious activity, are the hallmarks of a successful campaign to combat internet and telemarketing thefts,” Polos said.

Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano noted that through the efforts of the state judiciary, Superior Court Judge Travis L. Francis, the assignment judge at the Middlesex County Courthouse, and the Middlesex County Bar Association, several attorneys will be volunteering their time to talk to senior citizens about the importance of preparing legal documents, such as wills and the establishment of trusts.

“I applaud Prosecutor Kaplan, Judge Francis and my colleague, Freeholder Polos, for coordinating their efforts to keep our seniors from harm,” Freeholder Director Rafano said. “Working together always brings greater results.”

The program was organized by Reginald Johnson, the MORE unit coordinator, and Luis M. Hernandez, ombudsman for the Middlesex County vicinage. They contacted various senior citizen centers, scheduled the events and will participate in the presentations.

Research by the National Consumers League, a Washington, D.C. non-profit dedicated to consumer protection, has outlined various internet and telemarketing scams that will be reviewed during the forums.

Common scams include instances where thieves call seniors and promise cash rewards or prizes for a shipping and handling fee. Of course, there are no prizes and the consumer loses the money sent for the prize.

Scams generally involve gaining trust through a believable and often sympathetic story that tricks consumers into parting with their money.

The MORE unit encourages consumers to be suspicious and to never give out personal information over the phone or over the internet.

Future Elder Law Forums will be held on:

  • Sept. 18 at the South River Office on Aging, 55 Reid Street, South River at 11 a.m.;
  • Oct. 2 at the Edison Senior Center, 2963 Woodbridge Avenue, Edison, for the benefit of the Lindeneau Senior Club, at 12:30 p.m.;
  • Oct. 12 at the North Brunswick Senior Center, 15 Linwood Place, North Brunswick, at 12:30 p.m.;
  • Oct. 13 at Helmetta Borough Hall, 56 Main Street, Helmetta, at 11 a.m.;
  • Oct. 22 at the Highland Park Senior/Youth Center, 220 South Sixth Avenue, Highland Park, at 12 p.m.;
  • Oct. 29 at the Rossmoor Club House, Ballroom 2, Rossmoor Drive, Monroe, at 2 p.m.;
  • Nov. 5 at the Edison Senior Center, 2963 Woodbridge Avenue, Edison, for the benefit of the Stelton Senior Club, at 12:30 p.m.;
  • Nov. 16 at the Perth Amboy Office on Aging, 1 Olive Street, Perth Amboy, at 10:45 p.m.;
  • Dec. 3 at the Monroe Senior Center, 1 Municipal Plaza, Monroe, at 1:30 p.m., and
  • Dec. 20 at the Old Bridge Senior Center, 1 Old Bridge Plaza, Old Bridge, at 10:30 a.m.

Senior citizen organizations interested in hosting an Elder Law Forum may contact Reginald Johnson of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-732-745-3300.


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