Answer Sure of NJ helps thwart senior phone scams

Claudette McClean was 84 in 2019 when a strange man in a suit and tie knocked on the door of her Brooklyn apartment, where she lived alone.

Claiming to be a representative of his bank, he asked her for her “faulty” bank card and promised that she would receive a new card in the mail. A cousin who was stopping by to visit McClean intervened just in time, but the exchange left McClean confused, scared and in tears as she called her daughter to share what had happened.

This frightened elderly person was the mother of Spotswood resident Gogie Padilla. And Padilla didn’t take the situation lightly.

“From my mother’s perspective, the man looked the part and could have been the bank manager,” said Padilla, 57, a former New York fundraiser. “We were lucky that our relative was there to intervene, but the incident made all my siblings very worried because if she hadn’t been there, who knows what might have happened?

“While this man was overreacting by coming to my mother’s door,” she continued, “my siblings and I realized that my mother’s phone had been the access point; we confirmed that he called her several times and got information from her each time. It’s the pathology used by these criminals – to gain trust and almost become like a friend to their victims – and I’m sure my mother innocently told her the name of her bank.

A growing problem

Padilla’s mother is not alone.

According to FBI reports, some 100,000 seniors were defrauded of more than $1.7 billion nationwide at the hands of scams in 2021, and the incidence of these is increasing. While scammers are extremely adept at impersonating authority figures, older adults are particularly vulnerable targets due to their physical and cognitive decline and age-related neural changes that make them more confident. The situation is further compounded by the fact that, as a demographic, older people are less likely to report scams to authorities out of embarrassment and fear. For all these reasons, experts believe that the true incidence of senior citizen scams is vastly underreported.

Based on Padilla’s research, “we learned that my mother received up to 40 calls a day and less than 10 of them were from legitimate people she knew, so the vast majority were unsolicited” , she said. “And beyond the risk of scams, the reality of the phone ringing multiple times a day can be very disconcerting for any owner, especially the elderly.”

Taking action, “my siblings and I went looking for a barrier,” she said.

“My mom had caller ID and we had prepped her on what to say and what not to say on the phone, but we didn’t want to put the onus on her to remember those guidelines anymore,” said Padilla. “We just didn’t want her phone ringing unless the call was verified, and that was definitely for her.”

Related:Online scams targeting veterans and active duty members. Here’s how to protect yourself.

Although Padilla wasn’t able to find the exact product she wanted on the market, she wasn’t deterred.

“Back when I was fundraising, there was always a gatekeeper or executive assistant that I had to work with to get to whoever I was calling,” she said, “so I tweaked this concept and created Answer Sure, which is like a guardian. ”

A protective wall

Gogie Padilla, founder and owner of Spotswood-based Answer Sure LLC

Introduced in 2021 and independent of the telecommunications industry, “Answer Sure is a call verification service that offers two plans for landlines (a representative plan and an automated plan) and an option for mobile phones,” said the founder and owner Padilla.

“Under our representative plan, a customer must first fill out a form on our website and obtain a second landline from their telephone company, which costs around $10 per month,” Padilla said. “Once this number is shared with Answer Sure and a password is established (and shared with loved ones), all calls received will be transferred to a representative from our Answer Sure call center and the password created by the customer will be the tool used to verify. the call. Callers who don’t know the password won’t be passed on to the customer,” she said of a service that costs $49.95 a month.

“Customers can also opt for our automated landline plan,” she continued. “This service also requires customers to obtain a second line from their telephone company, but the verification tool is a numeric code that is typed directly into the keypad. Once a call is received and transferred to Answer Sure, an automated message asks for the code of the person it is trying to reach; if the code is correct, the call is released and it rings on the customer’s line; otherwise it won’t be implemented,” she said of a service that costs $39.95/month.

For cellphones, “we offer an app for $4.99 per month that weeds out fraudulent calls based on a dynamic list of millions of fraudulent numbers that we keep adding to,” Padilla said. “This service offers a remote subscription, so you can buy the app for a senior and only need a password or login (not them).”

“Because every call is dated and timestamped in real time,” Padilla said, “Answer Sure provides insight into whether incoming calls are legitimate or from strangers, telemarketers, or scammers.”

Provide peace of mind

Answer Sure continues to accumulate a growing list of satisfied customers, including Padilla’s mother.

“Since we enrolled my mother in the representative plan in April 2021, Answer Sure has reduced her crank calls by 100%,” Padilla confirmed. “Now 87 and a bit more forgetful, my mum is happy that she doesn’t have to phone all day, and my siblings and I have peace of mind knowing we’ve put something in place that doesn’t. does not depend on his memory and will greatly reduce his exposure to this insidious activity.Other customers have also commented on how the service is a boon and how their loved ones are less stressed as a result.

According to Padilla, seniors aren’t the only ones who can benefit from Answer Sure. “One of our customers in her 30s has Answer Sure on her mobile and landline,” Padilla said. “She is single, lives alone and wanted that extra protection.”

“Many scams are one-off, but in other cases the scammers are measured and will call their targets for weeks or even months, essentially ‘setting them up’,” Padilla said. “Whether the scams are health-related, tax-related, or play the ‘grandparent’ card (the scammers claiming that the elderly person’s grandchild has had an accident or is in hospital or jail and has need money urgently), all of this represents the abuse of older people – who may find themselves financially depleted, distrustful of others and/or living in fear and guilt – and their families.

“Ultimately, our phones are access points — as accessible as our front door or our windows,” Padilla said. “We secure those with locks and alarms and a phone should be no different. In the necessary quest to restrict the access all of society now has to us via our phones, Answer Sure is a robust tool designed to crack down on phone scams and help ensure whoever is calling is the real deal.

Answer Sure is a national service and can be reached by calling 732-702-0010 or visiting www.answersure.com.

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