Most everyone knows a victim of a scam. The phony driveway sealing. The sweepstakes jackpot you won but requires a tax payment.  And, of course, the infamous "grandchild in trouble" who needs money right away for whatever reason.

The swindlers who perpetrate these bogus schemes usually prey on the elderly because that's a generation when trust was part of the community fabric.

No more. That's why it's important to protect yourself and the people you love.

You can do that next Monday when state Senate Deputy Minority Leader Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, and Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. team up with AT&T and Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York to host a senior scam prevention and cyber security seminar in Oneida County. It's free and will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the North Utica Senior Citizen Community Center, 50 Riverside Drive in Utica.

Scams are rampant. Perhaps the most common, according to the National Council on Aging, is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. Though the elderly aren't the only victims, they are the ones thought to have hefty bank accounts, which make them easy marks. Scammers know this, and because there is no face-to-face interaction and no paper trail, the council says, these scams are very tough to trace. Once a successful deal has been made, the buyer's name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets, sometimes defrauding the same person repeatedly.

Representatives from Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York and AT&T will speak at Monday' seminar about recognizing and avoiding scams that prey specifically on seniors and will offer cybersecurity tips to help them and others protect their identities online and navigate the internet safely. Tips will be given on how to avoid both prominent and lesser-known scams and what to do if a senior falls victim one.

“We know older adults are targeted and they need to be aware of scammers who call on the phone, send mail or email, or even show up at the front door,” said Warren Clark, president of BBB of Upstate New York. “It's always a good idea to take the time to advise your older loved ones about the scams that are out there, and to make sure they are aware of the warning signs and red flags.”

Many "popular" scams play over and over again, mainly because they work. A favorite that's been on the circuit for years plays on a grandparent's emotions. The crook calls, claiming to be a grandchild arrested and in need of money for bail. A second person gets on the phone, identifies himself as a police officer and tells the grandparents where and how to send the money.

Another version of the scam is for the "grandchild" to create some other unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don't always require identification to collect. "Please don't tell my parents, they would kill me," the scammer begs.

Door-to-door solicitors can likewise dupe innocent "customers." They might try to sell everything from home insulation to new driveways, offering their services at bargain prices if you act now and pay up front. 

Don't give them a nickel. Once you're scammed, recovering your losses can be difficult. Legitimate contractors rarely, if ever, ask for payment up front. If you need work done, the best place to find someone to do it is through a recommendation from a friend or from your local building supply dealer who frequently deals with them. Get several quotes in writing and compare them before making a decision.

And never make a commitment over the phone.

Another phony operation: Threatening calls from "IRS agents." These crooks usually demand money from victims who threaten them with arrest. The calls can also be recorded messages left on your voicemail that leave the impression that if you do not call back, the IRS will issue a warrant for your arrest. Don't believe it. The IRS never calls or leaves messages asking you to call them back. If they need you, you'll be contacted by official mailings.

Monday's seminar will peel back the dark layers to reveal the threats out there, particularly in the digital world, where nameless, faceless scoundrels lurk just waiting to dig their grubby hands into some trusting person's pocket.

Attend Monday's seminar and learn how to fight back - or avoid these crooks entirely.