Losses mount from scams targeting older Americans

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. 😈

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9 Responses to Losses mount from scams targeting older Americans

  1. np213 says:

    There’s also been one going around where people will call and tell you that they are court officials and there is a warrant out for your arrest because you missed jury duty. When you tell them you never received a subpoena, they ask for all of your personal information “to recall the warrant” and BAM!!! Your identity was just stolen!

    • TexasFred says:

      That’s the thing, so many folks don’t think about it, if there’s a warrant with YOUR NAME on it, they WILL knock on your door… It’s sad…

  2. BobF says:

    My sister and I have access to my mom’s checking and savings account. I continually monitor it on line, and pay her bills electronically. The money from my fathers life insurance is in an account not in her name and she can’t access. She’s the type that would probably fall for a scammer. She had a hearing aid salesman convince her she needed new hearing aids and he had to have a $350 down payment. She called me to see if there was enough in the account and I put a halt to that real fast.

    • Patrick Sperry says:

      My Mother passed a while back, and while that sort of thing is always tough?

      First big problem was the state of my birth, California! They said that she had no living relatives… When presented with my birth certificate they said it was illegible… Bottom line is? It took me well over a year to get my Mother buried!

      Part was finances. and so on.

      I am still dealing with the ID theft issues though…

      Protect your elders people!

  3. Katie says:

    It isn’t just the elderly who get scammed. Think of all the idiots who got scammed by those Nigerian “Princes” or fake GI’s back from Iraq. How many millions are stolen each year by them.

    • BobF says:

      Katie, excellent point about those phoney GI’s, what’s become know as Stolen Valor. Let me relate something that rocked the Air Force to the highest levels.

      Back when I was still active duty, there was a retired CMSgt Spenser Dukes who claimed to be Battan Death March survivor and former POW during WWII. Chief Dukes was a featured speaker at enlisted Professional Military Education banquets and Enlisted Dining-In’s all over the United States. He spoke at Malamstrom AFB while I was there and his story would literally bring tears to your eyes. Stories had been written about him in the Air Force Sergeants magazine and the First Sergeant of the Year award was about to be named after him. Chief Dukes also had a very powerful supporter, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force David Campanlae, who ridiculed other Death March survivors who tried to expose Chief Dukes.

      Chief Dukes was eventually exposed for the fraud he was. This man had the senior Air Force leadership fooled at the Pentagon level. Nobody at that level bothered to look into his records; they just took him at his word. If this man, who was wined and dined at Air Force expense all over the United States could fool USAF Senior Leadership, just think what someone could possibly get out of veterans organization or our senior citizens

      • Patrick Sperry says:

        Gads BobF…

        Professional parochialism perhaps?

        I would not be here today were it not for my Godfather
        “Black John” U.S.M.C!

        The United States Marine Corps does not just hand out medals.
        However he earned a Navy Cross for his actions, and part of that was killing some Japanese solder with a locally made short sword. In the process saving my fathers life.

        Three weeks ago I got a phone call informing me that I had to pay some exorbitant amount of money for some damned bill that my Godfather had not paid. Debt was incurred in..? 1995 he thought…

        Well, John McCafferry passed on, and has been guarding the streets of heaven since 1977…

        The Sheriff is investigating.

  4. Texasperated says:

    Best answer to all of it: “Would you like my lawyer’s phone number?”

    Keep your powder dry

  5. Always On Watch says:

    Some of the biggest scammers are blood kin.

    My damn sister-in-law stole $100,000 from her mother, who was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s at the time. Right after acquiring the money, my damn sister-in-law hightailed it out of the state — leaving California and buying a mansion in Georgia. Within a few years, my damn sister-in-law lost that house, too. My other sister-in-law bilked my mother-in-law out of $300,000 — again, with my mother-in-law clearly demented and very gullible to any scheme that came along.

    My mother-in-law really thought that she was doing something to help her grandchildren. Convoluted reasoning, of course, as the Alzheimer’s tangles were proliferating.

    Meanwhile, my mother-in-law, for all intents and purposes a vegetable without any life support yet “lives” on — a pauper who will not even have enough left to bury her (We’ll foot the bill even though we can’t afford to do so).

    I guess the moral of the story is this: Find someone, family member or not, to oversee your affairs if the time comes for that contingency. But make sure that someone oversees the first over-seer.

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