Sherry McCoy

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD

is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or


Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program


Happy Holidays! Believe it or not, it’s December 2023 and the winter holidays are upon us! The new year – 2024 – is just around the corner. As we head out into the holiday season, let’s remember that despite all the good cheer and loving intentions of most people, fraudsters will, nonetheless, be out in full force. They won’t be taking the holidays off! Instead, they’ll be thinking up nefarious ways to rip people off! So, let’s take the time to review some key essentials that will help us steer clear of fraud during the holidays. The most important way we as seniors can protect ourselves from scammers is to develop good habits in fraud prevention.


Good Fraud Prevention Habits to Cultivate During the Holiday Season!


#1Develop and maintain a pro-active commitment to staying consciously aware of the reality we live in. In the 21st century, scams have become part and parcel of everyday life. Sadly, this is true, whether we like it or not. To combat this reality, Rachel Tobac (an “ethical hacker” and CEO of Social Proof Security who appeared on television in a May 21st 60 Minutes episode**) suggests we adopt the pro-active attitude/strategy of “Being Politely Paranoid.”


#2 — Make it a regular everyday practice to report all scam emails, texts, phone calls, mail, etc. to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The importance of reporting scams AND attempted scams cannot be overstated. Law enforcement can’t fight a problem it doesn’t know anything about. If we want to stop the problem of scams that target seniors, we have got to shine a light on that problem. The best way to do that is to REPORT, REPORT, REPORT!


#3Recognize that anyone can be a victim of fraud. – None of us are invincible. The FBI reports that last year Americans lost more than $10B to online scams and digital fraud**. When you consider that only a very tiny fraction of fraud crimes are actually reported, it highlights the fact that the real amount of money lost to fraudsters is significantly greater. It also means that a significant number of people who were defrauded by scammers last year did not report those crimes. Statistics show that nowadays, we are more likely to be the victim of online theft than a break-in at home**. And fraudsters are upping their game, using AI (artificial intelligence) and voice-cloning to make their lies more believable, and thus more dangerous to the general public.


#4Offer Encouragement — Encourage those who have been the victim of a scam to report what happened to the FTC and local or federal law enforcement agencies. Discuss the importance of reporting scams. If you or someone you know is the victim of a scam, talk about what happened in a safe environment, i.e., with friends and family who are non-judgmental, or with a scam support group. Scam shaming is a real problem in our society. We tend to blame the victim rather than directing our ire where it belongs — at the criminals who perpetrated the crimes in the first place. This needs to change.


#5 — Code Word — Consider having a “code word” with family members, your spouse, and/or close friends. If you get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be a loved one who is in some kind of trouble/emergency and needs your help right away, ask the caller for the “code word.” If the caller knows the “code word,” you’ll know the call is legit. If the caller doesn’t know the “code word,” then the call is clearly a scam! Just hang up!


#6Take 5 / Tell 2 – The Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) first learned about the “Take 5 / Tell 2” campaign to steer clear of fraud from our friends in Canada at the Senior Resource Center Saint John, N.B.*** (And our Canadian friends borrowed this idea from their friends across the pond in Great Britain!) The idea behind “Take 5 / Tell 2” is this — Make a commitment to yourself to take 5 minutes to chill, and talk to 2 people, before you respond to an unsolicited text message, email, phone call that is alarming. This is a step that will help us “get out from under the ether” of a scammer’s intent to trick us into believing their lies are truth. When we’re in a state of panic, we are not thinking clearly and tend to make poor choices. Taking 5 minutes to chill and speak with at least 2 other people about the matter can help get us back on track, so we can reasonably assess the situation and act from a place of reason, not from fear.


#7Be Present — Practice being aware of your surroundings and staying focused in the present moment. This goes a long way in helping us stay grounded and aware of what’s going on around us at every moment. Check in with yourself throughout the day as you go about your daily activities. Be kind to yourself as you simply note where your mind is wandering. As your self-awareness increases, it will become easier to stay focused in the present moment!


#8Remember This Important Red Flag – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!


#9Educate Yourself on Scams That Target Seniors – Finally, it’s important to stay up to date on what’s going on in the world with scams, especially those that target seniors. The more we know about scams and tactics used by scammers, the more we develop our awareness in this arena, the better off we will be. Knowledge is a powerful deterrent to fraud. Read all you can about scams and share what you know with others. Over the course of 2023, I wrote about many of the prevalent scams that target seniors in this NOT BORN YESTERDAY column. For a complete list of all my articles this year, please see my 2023 SCAM BUSTER REFERENCES LIST* below. It is my sincere hope that the information in this year’s column will help you steer clear of fraud, or help you recover if you have been the victim of a scam. Please feel free to peruse these articles at your leisure. I welcome your comments and wish you all the best in the coming year.


Stay Safe and Happy Holidays!



NBY Jan. 2023 – New Trends in Senior Scams 2023,

NBY Feb. 2023 – Romance Scams and the Fraud Prevention Act of 2022,

NBY March 2023 – Parking Lot Scams,

NBY April 2023 – AI ‘Voice Cloning’ Scams,

NBY May 2023 – Juice Jacking and Lottery Scams,

NBY June 2023 – Vacation / Travel Scams,

NBY July 2023 – Best Practices to Deter Scammers,

NBY Aug. 2023 – Skimming and Credit Union Imposter Scams,

NBY Sept. 2023 – A New Constant – Scams in Everyday Life,

NBY Oct. 2023 – Update – Why We ‘Blame the Victim’,

NBY Nov. 2023 – PayPal Scams and Mystery Gift Scams,


**CBS News, “Ethical hacker scams 60 Minutes staffer to show how easy digital theft is,” by Aliza Chasan, May 21, 2023,


***CBC News, “Here are the top scams in Ontario and tips on how to avoid them,” by Nicole Brockbank, March 02, 2023,



Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at

For questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, contact Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.



On Wednesday, November 15th, SSSAP presented its education program at the Los Angeles Public Library — Palisades Branch Library; Host – Librarian Barbara Birenbaum; SSSAP Educator – Ann Stahl. Seen in the picture (from left to right): John Darnell, EMPOWER L.A.; Sherry McCoy, Michael Brodie, and Beverly Weir, SSSAP actors.


Be Empowered. Find Your Voice. Speak Out About Fraud!

Remember:  You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!

Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

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