PARIS – Seniors worried about getting ripped off can dial 1-877-ELDERS-1 and get the lowdown on any low lifes who might be trying to take advantage of them.

That number will get seniors to the closest area agency on aging, where potential business activity can be investigated.

The number can be dialed free of charge from anywhere in Maine.

Social service agencies, law enforcement agencies and other governmental bodies joined to create the Check It Out program and establish the Elders 1 hot line.

To help disseminate information to seniors, the 13 TRIADs – The Right Idea and Decision programs – were contacted and employees trained to administer the program.

The TRIAD is a partnership between law enforcement, local agencies and businesses to address crime issues affecting older citizens.

Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) committees are part of TRIAD.

SALT representative and Oxford County Sheriff’s Department’s Administrative Assistant Linda Hooker said the AARP got the wheels turning for the program and encouraged other agencies to join in to help seniors fight fraud.

At a recent TRIAD gathering of senior citizens, Ricker Hamilton, the protective program administrator for the southern division of Adult Protective Services, warned seniors about the scam artists who are trying to trick them out of their money.

“If you get a lot of pressure over the phone or in person just say, ‘I’m going to check it out,'” Hamilton told seniors. “There’s a lot of legitimate businesses in Maine doing telemarketing, but some are out there just to separate us from our money. If they are a legitimate business they will be there tomorrow.”

Oxford County Sheriff Lloyd Herrick noted that each year about 12,000 seniors in Maine are abused by scams or neglect.

Hooker said that 84 percent of elder abuse cases are never reported and as much as 97 percent of all fraud cases go unreported.

She said often seniors don’t report the infractions because of embarrassment or fear that they might lose their independence; sometimes they are just unaware they were swindled.

“Criminals also know that seniors are less likely to report crime and have a quick access to assets,” Hooker said. “Don’t tell anyone that you live alone or give out your credit card numbers. And never give out checking account or Social Security numbers.

“Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision,” she said. “Tell them you want to check it out, call the 877 number. If they are a valid business they will wait for you.”

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