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AARP AARP States Arizona Scams & Fraud

Use These Tools to Foil Scammers

By James E. Garcia

Reynard Gordon and Theresa Alice Titus were found guilty last year by a Cochise County jury on charges of fraud, theft and forgery.

The pair were convicted of swindling a 74-year-old woman in southern Arizona out of about $120,000 by submitting a fraudulent power of attorney and coercing the victim to withdraw large amounts of cash from her personal bank account.

Police were tipped off when an alert credit union employee realized the woman did not understand the meaning of the documents she was signing. Despite the couple’s arrest and conviction, authorities say more than $10,000 was never recovered.

The incident points up a growing problem. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) cites research showing that 17 percent of Americans 65 and older report having been victims of “financial exploitation.”

To fight the problem, the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) began distributing regular “scam alerts” in 2015, said spokeswoman Mia Garcia.

“Our mission is to protect and fight for the most vulnerable,” Garcia added. “One way is by reaching out to educate seniors, as well as their friends, family and neighbors, to look for the signs of fraud, and when they see something unusual to take the time to call and report that activity.”

Workshops and shredding
The attorney general’s scam alerts dovetail well with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network campaign, said David Parra, who helps lead the project in Arizona.

The campaign is designed “to arm and equip the 50-plus community with the tools they need to spot and avoid becoming victims of fraud,” Parra said.

AARP Arizona conducts about 100 fraud prevention workshops every year. The statewide campaign includes regular shred-a-thons where people can bring documents they need to destroy to avoid identify theft.

A recent nationwide AARP survey found that 80 percent of respondents agreed that shredding paperwork that contains Social Security numbers, birth dates and financial account numbers is “very” or “extremely” important.

The attorney general’s scam alerts highlight the most common crimes, such as an email or telephone call from someone posing as a government official who claims to need personal financial information. Other top scams include identity theft, which can result in the filing of fraudulent income tax returns or applications for credit cards or bank loans.

Research shows that older people are at greater risk of being scammed, in part because they are more likely to respond to unsolicited telephone calls or emails from scam artists seeking personal financial information. However, most scams go undetected. The CFPB notes that just 1 in 44 cases of financial scams involving older adults get reported.

In many instances, older people may not want to be seen as unable to manage their own finances or legal affairs. However, the odds of catching a criminal who commits fraud or other scams increases when an incident is reported quickly.

To learn more about fraud prevention, the office of the attorney general recommends that you sign up for its email alerts, which are issued in English and Spanish, at To report suspected fraud, call the office at 800-352-8431.

To reach the state’s Task Force Against Senior Abuse (TASA) Helpline, call 602-542-2124 or 844-894-4735 toll-free. To sign up for AARP’s alerts, call toll-free 877-908-3360 or go to

James E. Garcia is a writer living in Phoenix.

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