Social media in a lot of ways is still kind of the "Wild West" as we have come to the stark realization of over the last year or so. The amount of information, good and bad, right or wrong, slanted or not and above all nefarious in intent or paid agenda content has been like standing on a corner while someone comes by with a fire truck and sprays the hose at you. It's a LOT to try and ingest and what's real and what's fake is almost indistinguishable to even the most scholarly of media observers. It's also delivered at a pace that people who are on social media almost all day can barely keep up with let alone those who check in once in a while. This is leading to a big problem.
People who grew up with a little slower pace in how they see and hear things are not only being caught up in the battle of all that's heard and seen on social media, they are falling victim to highly polished scams in ways that no one ever imagined. It's not limited to just social media either. Those seeking to scam older people in ay number of ways, from banking fraud to telephone soliciting, combing over their online information to know exactly what buttons to push to get people to help out a "family member who's in trouble" to even working on developing a "relationship" with them because they are lonely and looking for a companion. The level of viciousness displayed by those who are willing to take away everything someone worked for their entire life has gotten to the point, that a special law enforcement unit in Muskegon has come together to help fight the problem. Scams are not all they work with either. Abuse, neglect and exploitation are all part of the mix too, unfortunately.
The SafeSeniors Task Force in Muskegon is a collaboration between AgeWell Services, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office, and area law enforcement agencies, funded through the Muskegon County Senior Millage. When a crime like this happens and is reported, the idea behind all of this is to have one centralized team focusing on the issue. The prevalence is so high, and the demand on law enforcement is so great that this task force needed to come along to help protect those who are falling victim as well as relieve some of the work on the other officers who are taking care of other crime. It also gives those within the task force a chance to better understand the dynamics of the crime, the criminals and the victims. The victims especially as you will hear in the video, they are quite often ashamed to admit they fell for it due to their trusting nature or the fact that the crime happened at the hands of someone close to them.
We sat down at the Norton Shores Police Department with members of the task force. They include Chris Burnaw from AgeWell Services, Darric Roesler from the Muskegon County Sherrif's office, Bruce Morningstar from the Norton Shores Police Department and Heather Bloomquist from the Muskegon County Prosecutors Office. It's a talk well worth listening to, and hopefully, it can spur on a conversation with the older adults in your life or, if you are one of the older viewers we have, it will give you a resource to know that help is there for you. If you know of a problem, the forst step is a call to either (231) 755-0434 or 1-800-442-6769
It's a crazy time and those who have no problem preying on confusion, chaos and loneliness are doing all they can to line their pockets at the hands of a generation that was built on being able to trust what they hear and see. They were taught to put others first and they were taught too that helping a friend and neighbor is the right thing to do. Now, all of our neighborhoods have become worldwide in some cases and all that others know is being maliciously taken advantage of. The Safe Seniors Task Force in Muskegon is there to help. If you need to know more, you can find a link to their website by clicking on their logo below. Our thanks to the members of the Task Force who joined us today.