Losses mount from scams targeting older Americans
NEW YORK (AP) – Boomers beware: Scams, frauds and other financial exploitation schemes targeting older Americans are a growing multibillion-dollar industry enriching the schemers, anguishing the victims and vexing law enforcement officials who find these crimes among the hardest to investigate and prosecute.
“The true con artists, who are in the business of making money off older folks through devious means, are very good at what they do,” said Sally Hurme, a consumer fraud specialist with AARP. “They cover their tracks, they use persuasive psychological means to spin their tales.”
Elder financial abuse encompasses a wide range of tactics, some perpetrated by relatives or trusted advisers, some by strangers via telemarketing and Internet-based scams.
Researchers say only a fraction of the abuse gets reported to the authorities, often because victims are too befuddled or embarrassed to speak up. Even with the reported cases, data is elusive because most federal crime statistics don’t include breakdowns of victims’ ages.
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Losses mount from scams targeting older Americans
Old folks; God love em, but so many of them are nothing more than an easy *mark* for scammers and con artists.
Me? I’m a scammers worst nightmare, but I’m not all that old and am still reasonably in possession of my mental faculties. (SHUT UP TREY, I can change the WILL )
Seriously, scammers and con artists are everywhere, and it’s not just senior citizens that get hit, but, senior citizens are favorite targets, mostly because many just can’t handle the fast talking, the smooth presentation and, sadly, because so many don’t have anyone left in this world that cares about them and the idea of a *FREE* something, especially a *something* that involves actual interaction with others, is just *something* that can’t be resisted.
A federally funded study conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 2009 concluded that 5 percent of Americans 60 and older had been the victim of recent financial exploitation by a family member, while 6.5 percent were the target of a nonfamily member. The study, led by psychologist Ron Acierno of the Medical University of South Carolina, was based on input from 5,777 older adults.
A report last year by insurer MetLife Inc. estimated the annual loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion, compared with $2.6 billion in 2008.
“Elder financial abuse is an intolerable crime resulting in losses of human rights and dignity,” MetLife said. “Yet it remains underreported, underrecognized and underprosecuted.”
Older Americans are by no means the only target of schemers and scammers, but experts say they have distinctive characteristics that often make them a tempting prey.
I know it happens, we’ve all heard about it, poor old Aunt Bessie, she’s all alone now that Uncle Bart died and left her a hefty life insurance policy, but Aunt Bessie has lost a few steps along the way and she has an EVIL nephew that just knows he can bilk the old girl out of her money. It happens all the time. It shouldn’t happen, but it does, all too often.
Some have disabilities that leave them dependent on others for help; others are unsophisticated about certain financial matters or potential pitfalls on the Internet. Many are relatively isolated and susceptible to overtures from seemingly friendly strangers.
“That’s why telemarketing scams are so successful,” said Karen Turner, head of a newly formed elder fraud unit in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in New York City. “They’re delighted to have someone to talk with – they almost welcome the calls.”
There’s that interaction I was talking about!
“A lot of the scammers pretend to be with the government – they say they’re calling from the Social Security Administration or the IRS,” Kirchheimer said. “People 65 and over, they often fall for that.”
There’s a multitude of scam scenarios, some of them new twists on old ploys.
This is a great point for people of ALL ages to keep in mind; the IRS and Social Security do NOT call you on the phone about *issues*, they WILL send *snail mail* and knock on your door.
_The Grandparent Scam: Impostors, often calling from abroad, pose as a grandchild in need of cash to cope with some sort of emergency, perhaps an arrest or an accident. The grandparent is asked to send money and urged not to tell anyone else about the transfer.
Police in Bangor, Maine, said a man in his 70s was bilked out of $7,000 in January by a con artist pretending to be his grandson who called to say he needed money to get out of jail in Spain.
In another version, scammers pose as soldiers who’ve been serving in Afghanistan, and call grandparents claiming to need money as part of their homecoming.
_The Lottery Scam: Scammers inform their target that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes and need to make a payment to obtain the supposed prize. The targets may be sent a fake prize-money check they can deposit in their bank account. Before that check bounces, the criminals will collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize.
Police in Holden, Mass., say an 80-year-old woman recently was bilked out of $400,000 over the course of a year in her efforts to claim bogus prize money. In Los Angeles, authorities said last year that an 87-year-old widower fell for a lottery scam masterminded in Quebec, and mailed $160,000 in checks that he’d been told was for taxes on his purported $3.3 million in winnings.
Many recent lottery scam calls have come from Jamaica, to the point where its area code (876) is now cited as by anti-scam experts as a warning sign. Other Caribbean area codes also have been implicated.
_The Toilet Paper Scam: Fraudsters often try to convince gullible targets into paying exorbitant sums for unneeded products and services, as exemplified by a scam uncovered in South Florida last year.
According to U.S. investigators, salespeople claiming their company was affiliated with federal agencies told their elderly victims that they needed special toilet paper to comply with new regulations and avoid ruining their septic tanks. In all, prosecutors said the company scammed about $1 million from victims from across the country, including some who purchased more than 70 years’ worth of toilet paper.
The *I’m in Europe and need you help* email scam is a hot one also.
The scammer sends you email from a trusted friends email address and claims to be that friend; broke, stranded and their passport stolen. They need YOUR help to get home. DON’T FALL FOR IT!
If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
There are NO free lunches, nothing is FREE, you get what you pay for!
Something for nothing, with a nominal service fee? Yeah, right. If you happen to believe in that sort of thing, I can put you in touch with the dying widow of a rich cocoa merchant in Nigeria that recently lost her incredibly wealthy husband in a tragic plane crash.
No, really, I can … for the modest sum of $49.95, you too can share in this dying woman’s incredible act of charity.