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The Northern Senior Activity Center in Charlotte Hall will host a town hall March 2 intended to protect older people against fraud.

“A Senior Medicare Patrol Town Hall Meeting to Address Scams Against the Elderly in Southern Maryland” will run from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 2.

The program is a joint effort by the Maryland Department of Aging, Calvert County Office on Aging, Charles County Aging & Senior Programs and St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services to highlight ways to detect, prevent and report popular scams; identity theft; and medical insurance, consumer and financial fraud. Representatives of the U.S. Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and others are also scheduled to offer insight.

“I think this is a very serious issue, and that’s why it’s important for us to reach out to the local community,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who was originally invited to speak but will be unable to appear, said Tuesday. “There has been an alarming increase in scams involving our seniors as of late and we just want them to be aware of the risk factors.”

The program follows a similar workshop presented by the St. Mary’s County TRIAD/SALT Council called “Consumer Protection Against Fraud,” which was held earlier this month in Leonardtown.

“We’ve found that there’s never a shortage of people in need of this kind of guidance, and so I think just knowing that there are local representatives in place will help put peoples’ minds at ease,” said Debbie Barker, manager of the senior information and assistance program with the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services. “It’ll definitely help to bring the issue to the forefront, helping people to know exactly what constitutes fraud as well as other scams going on and what the appropriate contacts would be in the event that it happens to you,” she said, noting that all three counties offer a Senior Medicare Patrol contact if people need help investigating issues that “don’t seem quite right.”

Beth Fiske, senior information and assistance coordinator for aging and senior programs in Charles County, said her office doesn’t receive many reports of fraud or Medicare abuse annually — something she attributes to seniors’ lack of knowledge on where to turn or how to handle such cases.

“That’s why public awareness is key,” Fiske said. “Once they have it in their head what they should keep their eyes on they’ll be better prepared if it happens to them.”

“The best benefit is just going to be that seniors will be able to identify who they should talk with to help them through the maze of health care coverage, fraud and identity theft and know what’s going on with their personal information,” Cardin said. “People, especially seniors, are far more vulnerable these days than they realize, and we have to do everything we can to protect them.”

If you go

“A Senior Medicare Patrol Town Hall Meeting to Address Scams Against the Elderly in Southern Maryland” will take place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 2 at the Northern Senior Activity Center located at 29655 Charlotte Hall Road in Charlotte Hall. A free lunch will be provided. To register, St. Mary’s County residents should call Debbie Barker at 301-475-4200, ext. 1050. Calvert County residents should call Tonya Jackson at 410-535-4606, ext. 131, and Charles County residents should call Beth Fiske at 301-934-0118. Registration is required by Feb. 27.