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Attorney general cautions seniors on scams, safety
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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring greets local residents Wednesday during the 18th annual Senior Appreciation Day Picnic, hosted by the Martinsville/Henry County Triad S.A.L.T. Council. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Senior citizens must be vigilant to protect themselves from scams and identity theft, Attorney General Mark Herring said Wednesday at a picnic at Jack Dalton Park.

Roughly 300 people attended the 18th annual Senior Appreciation Day Picnic, hosted by the Martinsville/Henry County Triad S.A.L.T. (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) Council. The event also featured comments from Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry and Martinsville Police Chief Sean Dunn, along with city Sheriff Steve Draper.

“Public safety threats are always changing, they’re always evolving, and seniors are not immune from that,” Herring told the crowd. “Whether it’s identity theft, whether it’s different kinds of cybercrimes, financial abuse of older Virginians ... a lot of people are trying to take advantage of seniors.”

Seniors citizens grew up in a more trustworthy era, Herring said, when “your word was your bond” and a handshake could seal a deal.

Today, he said, there are those who would betray the trust of older residents for a quick profit.

“It’s why the Triad partnership is so important, partnering with law enforcement and our office and your community to help inform you and keep you and your neighbors and your community safe,” he said.

One of the most common threats to seniors right now, Herring said, is identity theft.

“There are some things that seniors can do to help protect themselves from identity theft,” he said, such as shredding bank statements and credit card statements before throwing them into the trash.

“If there are suspicious emails and suspicious letters that they get in the mail,” he said, “they (residents) can always reach out to local law enforcement to find out if it’s a scam. They can always also call our consumer protection division, which has a hotline (800-552-9963) that they can reach out to to get more information.”

Herring has undertaken a number of initiatives in his first six months in office, he said. One of his first goals was to meet with law enforcement officers and prosecutors in various localities in Virginia to learn about the challenges they face in their areas.

Herring visited Martinsville on March 27 to meet with county and city law enforcement officials.

“In addition,” he said, “we’ve implemented a strict new ethics policy coming on the heels of the (former Gov. Bob) McDonnell scandal. It has a very strict ban on gifts that applies to me, my family and everybody in my office.”

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, face charges that they accepted money and gifts from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping promote his products.

“Part of being a modern attorney general is making sure that you’re as efficient as you possibly can be,” Herring added. “I’ve instituted an outside, nonpartisan, top-to-bottom review of our management and operations to see how we can be more efficient. One of the things I observed the first week I was in office was how antiquated our computer systems were. We have a very antiquated case management system, and a lot of that needs to be upgraded. ... It’s been a busy six months.”


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