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Scams against the elderly cost seniors over $3 billion annually, tips to keep seniors safe



Over $3 billion. That’s how much senior citizens lose annually to financial scams, according to an estimate by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. (FBI) Fraudsters often go after older adults, thinking their targets have large sums of money saved up. However, it’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for 2021 states that 18% of people ages 70 to 79 years old have lost an average of $800 to a scam. People who are over 80 report even higher median losses of $1,500.

The most prevalent scams targeting seniors fall into the “impersonator” scam category, where the scammer pretends to be someone to gain your trust or scare you into complying.

The Grandparent and other Phone Scams
The grandparent scam is when a scammer reaches out to someone, pretending to be his or her grandchild. The scammer typically makes up a distressful situation—such as being stuck in jail or behind on an important bill—and asks for financial assistance.

They often ask the person to send money immediately using a wire transfer or to buy gift cards and read off the card’s information. The scammer might ask the victim to keep the call a secret, but the FTC says the safest option is to verify the situation by calling a family member who knows where the grandchild currently is. Another safeguard a targeted victim might employ is asking the caller a few questions that only the actual grandchild would know how to answer.

Other scams can start with a phone call, whereby a fraudster calls and claims to be an agency, such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration. (SSA) Scammers may say that some type of immediate action on the part of the intended victim is required, such as owed taxes must be paid to avoid arrest, and that it must be taken care of right then. However, the IRS and the SSA will never initiate contact by phone (they communicate by mail) and won’t ask for unusual payment methods, such as gift cards or funds sent by companies such as Western Union.

Medicare Scams
Scams involving Medicare beneficiaries occur when someone claiming to be a Medicare representative calls, asking for personal and medical information. The scammer might say that a new Medicare card is needed or offer discounted additional coverage. Provided information is often then used, either by the scammer himself or by selling personal and medical information for identity theft and medical identity theft.
Other Medicare scams advertise free or low-cost services or equipment to seniors. Typically, the scammers deliver shoddy services or equipment and then bill Medicare for the full amount.

Online Romance Scams
Romance scams occur when someone builds a romantic or platonic relationship with you and then begins asking you for money. Scammers often create complete social media profiles along with sophisticated backstories to support their fake identities, such as being an oil-rig worker in a foreign country. Some scammers will approach a targeted person on social media or through online games.

The FTC says that people lost $1.3 billion to romance scams in 2021 alone, more than in any other FTC fraud category. People of all ages become victims of romance scams, but median losses for victims who are over 70 were $9,000, compared with $750 for those aged 18 to 29.

Romance scams are often a long con, with a scammer taking weeks or months getting to know the mark before asking for anything. Once they do, the scammers may ask their victims to invest in a business proposition or send them money.

Online Shopping Scams
Scammers set up websites that appear to be legitimate storefronts but exist to collect your payment information or sell stolen goods. These sites can be almost identical to legitimate business sites and are often hard to discern. The sites often appear on social media or in a website’s comments section. One way to avoid being scammed online is to go to the main website of an online store and ensure that the site has a security status in the browser’s address bar. For most browsers, a “safe” website will display a green padlock icon to the left of the website’s URL. Clicking on the padlock icon will verify the details of the website.

In its annual report to Congress on protecting older adults for 2021, the FTC highlighted online shopping scams as the most frequent type of fraud targeting seniors. The FTC suggests looking for red flags on websites, such as unusually low prices and spelling errors.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
These scams can target victims through an email, a call, a text or a letter or letter saying that the person has won a prize or can enter a sweepstakes contest. Scammers typically will say that payment must be made upfront, often to cover a processing fee. Any money paid is typically lost, and the scammer may also use any personal information gleaned to steal identity.

Steps to Avoid Senior Scams
While scammers can use various methods and tactics when targeting their victims, there are some basic practices to help keep seniors—and people of all ages–safe.

• Be wary of anything that seems too good to be true, such as a high-paying job that can be worked from home, free medical care, or a prize from a sweepstake that wasn’t entered. Taking a step back and reevaluating the situation can prevent a lot of trouble down the road. Family and friends can also be a source of help.

• With modern technology, scammers can make phone calls and emails that appear to come from legitimate companies and government organizations. FTC officials say it is best to avoid sharing private information before contacting the organization directly.

• Online accounts can be set up for multifactor authentication, which requires that a code be sent to one’s phone or email. The code must be entered before accessing an account. Enabling this extra security can prevent scammers from accessing accounts, even with usernames and passwords.

• Avoid odd payment types. Scammers often ask for money via a wire transfer, money order, cryptocurrency, payment app, or gift card. Those odd payment requests can be a tipoff that one is dealing with a criminal.

• If tricked by a scammer, one can report the fraud to the FTC on and file a police report. The FTC also can help provide a personalized recovery plan from the FTC using

Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series on issues affecting senior citizens. Next: Scams reported in the Front Royal-Warren County area.

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Community, State First Responders Join Town Tribute to FRPD Sgt. Dennis Smedley



The morning of September 20, 2023, 40 years to the day after he was gunned down from behind near the intersection of Villa Avenue and Sixth Street as he was headed to what would have been a routine day of court testimony in cases he was involved in, Front Royal Police Sgt. Dennis M. Smedley’s memory was invoked in a gathering of Town officials and first responders from the Town, County, and State, along with Smedley family members on North Commerce Avenue.

The occasion of that gathering was the naming of the North Commerce Avenue bridge over Happy Creek just north of its intersection with East Main Street for Sgt. Smedley. It was an emotional tribute to a local first responder lost in the line of duty to a murder that remains unsolved to this day. We spoke with Sgt. Smedley’s sister, South River District Warren County Supervisor Cheryl Cullers, following the ceremony as she mingled with family members, including brothers Tim and Todd Smedley, her husband Steve Cullers and son David, and sister-in-law Cathy.

An FRPD Honor Guard presented the colors, setting the official ceremony in motion 40 years to the day of Sgt. Dennis Smedley’s murder. Smedley family members make their way forward, and further below, the State Police have joined the crowd behind FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis in left foreground. Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini

Of the remembrance attended by FRPD members present and past, WCSO personnel, as well as County Fire & Rescue members, and State Police, Cheryl told us, “It’s important, even for other law enforcement personnel, to know what you dedicate your life to, that people appreciate it enough to do something like this. That we watch over and respect them and help them protect us.”

We asked Sgt. Smedley’s sister if it haunted the family that their brother’s murder at age 28 remains unsolved all these years later. “I can’t speak for my brothers, but I put it in God’s hands,” Cheryl told us after an emotional pause.

An FRPD Honor Guard presented the colors to set the dedication in motion. Mayor Lori Cockrell and Vice-Mayor Wayne Sealock, himself a retired first responder whom the mayor acknowledged as bringing the bridge-renaming dedication idea to council, offered keynote comments. “I wish this day didn’t have to happen,” Mayor Cockrell observed of the bridge renaming to the lost FRPD sergeant. She offered hope that the newly placed Smedley Bridge sign would help passing drivers “to think about the life, his life, and what he sacrificed for our community.”

‘I wish this day didn’t have to happen,’ Mayor Lori Cockrell said of the personal sacrifice at the root of honoring murdered FRPD Sgt. Dennis Smedley. The mayor credited Vice-Mayor Wayne Sealock for bringing the Smedley Bridge re-naming idea to council. Below, the vice-mayor read council’s Resolution of support of the bridge initiative approved on Aug. 28.

Following the mayor’s comments, Vice-Mayor Sealock read the town council Resolution dedicating the bridge to Sgt. Smedley’s memory.  Click here to read.

WCSO’s Roger Vorous, back to the camera, gave the invocation to a solemn crowd gathered in memory of FRPD Sgt. Dennis Smedley, a brother, a son, a friend, and an officer in service to his community.

A county fire engine passes in acknowledgment of the ceremony. And yes, there is a bridge artfully built into the road across Happy Creek’s shift eastward before continuing its path north toward the 8th Street low-water bridge and beyond.

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Rockland/Millwood Trio Announce ‘Meet & Greet’ with Crystal Cline



Prominent Milwood/Rockland residents Adie and Beatrice von Gontard have joined neighbor John Piazza, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, in organizing a “meet & greet” with Front Royal police captain Crystal Cline, candidate for Warren County Sheriff in a face off election contest next November.

The Friday, September 22, event will be at Piazza’s residence, 61 Milldale Alley Court, the home most noticeable by its spectacular garden (see photo), created by master landscape artist, the late Sheron Piazza, designer and creator of Rockland Community Church’s prayer garden that opened within the past year.

Piazza and the von Gontards, in announcing the event, said: “We believe that integrity and trust are the bedrock of effective leadership. This is a unique opportunity (for members of the public) to ask questions, share concerns, and to understand Cline’s vision (upon becoming the first woman sheriff of Warren County).”

The Piazza home garden site of the Cline for Sheriff ‘meet and greet’; and below host John Piazza.

Refreshments – “charcuterie and wine” – will be served during the “meet and greet” between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Help these little guys make their long journey!

In the last 2 weeks, we’ve received nine Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Five came into care due to cat attacks, two due to window strikes, one on a glue trap, and one due to exhaustion from being trapped inside a building.

These tiny birds bring great joy to many backyard birders, but they are difficult animals to rehabilitate due to their small size and high metabolisms. They eat up to 3x their body weight in nectar and small insects daily!

If you find a hummingbird or other wild animal in need of assistance, be sure to contact a permitted rehabilitator right away! If these birds aren’t able to begin eating quickly after coming into care, their prognosis is usually poor.

Hummingbirds start their long migration south to their wintering grounds in Central America (some traveling up to 2,000 miles) in late August/early September—and they must be in perfect health to do so successfully. Luckily, you can help migrating birds by mitigating the potential dangers in your yard!

  1. Keep pets indoors, leashed, or in “catios”.
  2. Make your windows bird-safe by using decals or window paint to break up the reflections in the windows (with no more than 2″ of space between decals/art!).
  3. Ditch the pesticides.
  4. And be sure to turn your outdoor lights off at night to help our nighttime migrants!

To learn more about the bird migration forecast in your area, check out the BirdCast website here.

Providing food for hummingbirds is another great way to help them during their migration journey. If you decide to feed hummingbirds using a nectar feeder, make sure to use refined white sugar—never brown sugar or organic sugar—and avoid adding unnecessary dyes.

Nectar feeders should be cleaned even more frequently than your regular bird feeders. We recommend changing and cleaning them every two days. Better yet, take down the feeder and plant some native plants like the coral honeysuckle pictured here!

Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Warren County Prepares for I-81 Lane Closure for Bridge Expansion



Bridge Widening Initiative Aims to Improve Traffic Flow and Safety.

Heads up, drivers! The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has important news regarding the I-81 northbound lane in Warren County. On the night of Tuesday, September 19, from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., a portion of the lane will be temporarily closed due to crucial bridge expansion work.

This closure pertains to the Route 840 (Water Plant Road) bridge, which spans over the southbound lane of Interstate 81 in Warren County. The primary objective of the closure is to pour the concrete deck, a pivotal step in the bridge’s widening process. The work zone will encompass the stretch between mile markers 298 and 300, in close proximity to the junction where I-81 meets I-66.

Drivers should be aware that this is a commonly bustling area. As a result, VDOT has advised motorists to exercise extra caution and vigilance when navigating this zone. For those who frequent Route 840 near the I-81 overpass bridges, keep an eye out for flagger-controlled traffic during the stated hours.

It’s worth noting that this bridge expansion initiative isn’t an isolated effort. In fact, it’s part of a comprehensive plan to enhance I-81 exit 300. Additionally, there’s a blueprint for a longer on-ramp from I-66 in the pipeline. Funded by Virginia’s SMART SCALE program, the overarching goal of these undertakings is to alleviate congestion and, importantly, boost road safety.

Adding some financial context to the matter, Triton Construction Inc., based in St. Albans, W.Va., was granted a contract worth $7,140,300 by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on May 17, 2022. The entire project is charted for completion by November 2024.

For those who regularly traverse I-81, be prepared for intermittent northbound and southbound shoulder closures throughout the project’s duration. A strict work zone speed limit of 55 miles per hour is in place for southbound I-81 traffic. Remember, these efforts are all weather-dependent.

For real-time traffic alerts and additional traveler details, you can dial 511 or pop over to For any queries, the VDOT Customer Service Center remains at your beck and call, 24/7, at 1-800-FOR-ROAD or via their mobile-friendly site at

As Warren County embarks on this ambitious bridge expansion endeavor, it serves as a reflection of the ongoing commitment to enhancing road infrastructure and ensuring safety for all. Motorists are encouraged to stay updated, drive safely, and cooperate with the changes for a smoother road ahead.

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Community’s Fiery Call for Library Funding: The Power of the People and Their Stories



Save Samuels and Warren County Residents Band Together in Support of Public Libraries.

In today’s digital era, it’s a refreshing sight to witness communities rally for traditional establishments. This past week, Warren County painted a picture of unity and passion as the Save Samuels movement, alongside Defensive of Democracy, organized a lively event emphasizing the significance of their cherished library.

Sarah Downs, a leading figure of the Save Samuels campaign and a representative for Defensive of Democracy was a beacon of enthusiasm at the gathering. “Our libraries transcend the realm of just being structures filled with books. They symbolize knowledge, culture, and the essence of community,” voiced Sarah, urging everyone to back their mission online via the Save Samuels website and Facebook page.

The gathering wasn’t just about speeches. A captivating ambiance enveloped the venue. From kids engaging in artistic endeavors at the designated Kids Corner to placards resonating with the attendees’ emotions, the atmosphere was electric.

Sarah, shining with determination, hinted at an upcoming significant event, “This upcoming Tuesday is vital. We’re convening at the government center at 4 p.m. We have to make our board of supervisors realize the library’s indispensability.”

Another figure who stole the limelight was Amber Mabie, a long-standing resident and library advocate of Warren County. With her family beside her, Amber recounted her journey, from her days as a 911 dispatcher to her current role as a stay-at-home mom. Amber shared heartwarming tales of the library’s pivotal role in her family, right from the times when her grandmother introduced her to the world of books.

Making a significant revelation, Amber announced her candidature against Tom MacFadden for the school board. She emphasized her concerns about dwindling funding for essential resources and urged the community to support her cause.

The Save Samuels rally epitomized the indomitable spirit of the Warren County community. Their shared reverence for the library sends out a clarion call. In a world rapidly shifting towards the digital, there’s still an unyielding love for the tangible, for the stories within the walls of our libraries, and for the legacy they represent. The forthcoming times promise continued effort from these devoted individuals as they strive to secure their library’s future.


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A Glimpse into the Future: Warren County Middle School Students Tackle Constitution Day



Shining a Light on the Nation’s Foundations.

Constitution Day took on a fresh, youthful perspective at Warren County Middle School when several eighth graders eloquently shared their insights into the historic document. Guided by their dedicated civics teacher, John Droesch, these young scholars are on a mission to understand, appreciate, and perhaps even shape the country’s future.

Mike McCool, representing the Royal Examiner, visited the school to chat with four standout students: Henry Kennedy, Jakaelyn Jackson, Samara Davis, and Kaylin Simpson. Each student provided unique insights into the Constitution, a reflection of their class assignment where they penned essays on the topic. Kennedy, whose mother was once a history teacher, delved deep into the evolving perceptions of “We the people.” Jackson, on the other hand, was impressed by the Constitution’s intricacies, especially regarding how laws are crafted and implemented.

WCMS Constitution experts – Henry Kennedy, Jakaelyn Jackson, Samara Davis, and Kaylin Simpson

One recurring theme was the surprise at the Constitution’s depth. Davis, for instance, confessed that her historical interest only sparked this year, leading to a broader realization of the nation’s foundational laws. Meanwhile, Simpson’s exploration led her to reflect on the relevance of the Constitution today, particularly on the topic of screen time for youngsters like her.

Droesch expressed immense pride in their dedication and insights. Impressed by their pre-existing knowledge and the depths of their curiosities, he highlighted that many students even ventured into complex areas such as voting rights and reproductive rights. A testament to the importance of civics education, the school’s curriculum will soon have these eighth graders simulating the passage of a law, allowing them to apply their newfound knowledge in a practical setting.

Reflecting on the significance of understanding the Constitution, Droesch shared a heartwarming story of a former student inspired to pursue a congressional career. It serves as a reminder that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and instilling them with a sense of civic responsibility is paramount. As the country looks towards the future, there’s hope in knowing that institutions like Warren County Middle School are nurturing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens.


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