Phone scams and door-to-door scams are not new throughout New Jersey but with COVID-19 now around, it's even more important to take care of the elderly who are the most vulnerable to such scams, Morris County Sheriff James Gannon said.

Scams are crimes of opportunity. Many times the victims are widows or widowers who live alone. Gannon said with the pandemic, many of these people are even more prone to scams because they are fearful of their health and future.

Gannon said he's seen an uptick of telephone scams not only in Morris County but throughout the state and beyond. Historically, these phone scammers are people who prey on the elderly by telling them that a relative of theirs has either been in an accident or needs money to be bailed out of jail.

To avoid falling victim to such scams, Gannon said to always be suspicious of callers who claim urgent circumstances or demand immediate payment for any reason. Slow the process down. Don't allow anyone to visit your home to collect money or property.

Do not engage but report to police any unsolicited door-to-door attempt to try and sell products that claim to prevent or treat COVID-19.

"Don't be rude. Be Shrewd," Gannon said. "You have no responsibility to talk to these people on the phone. When it doubt, hang that phone up."

Take notes of suspicious calls requesting money and try to gather information. Gannon said if possible, write down the number of the incoming call, take notes of any background noises or if the person speaks with an accent. Any little bit of information helps investigators, he said.

Be sure to call the local police department to report the scam. Gannon says these scams often go unreported among the elderly population because they're embarrassed that they allowed themselves to fall for them.

Gannon said the more reporting that the authorities have, the more they can connect the dots and successfully prosecute those who are preying on the elderly.

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