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Headline Reads "Elderly Scams Cost 12 TIMES More Than Previously Thought"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Earlier this year, staff writer Ann Brenoff, wrote the shocking headline above for The Huffington Post [2/5/2015].  Ann, who is in her fifties and "AARP-eligible," goes on to say that about four or five times a day, her home phone rings with people who say she has done business with them before (not true) or who say that she asked them to call (not true).  Increasingly, it is angry-voiced men claiming to be from the IRS or some fraud-investigation division of the government who say she owes them money (not true).  Ms. Brenoff surmises that the scammers play off one of older adults biggest concerns - a hazy memory!

The results of a recent study of financial abuse of older adults is pretty startling.  A U.S. True Link Financial study found that the overall cost of fraud is 12 times previous estimates - more than $36 billion. A Met Life study previously pegged the cost of scamming older adults at $2.9 billion. Many crimes are never reported.  The reason: "Admitting you got confused and gave some guy on the phone your credit card information is one step away from the "what should we do about mom?" conversation, according to Ms. Brenoff.

Here are some of the key points to keep in mind:
  1. Sometimes the financial manipulation is perfectly legal including confusing language that commits the buyer to more than they wanted or hiding expensive shipping and handling fees . Often it is repeated phone solicitations from unscrupulous and never-heard-of charities. 
  2. The True Link study revealed that financial exploitation is typically progressive, rather than an isolated incident. Once people fall prey to a scam, they are repeatedly targeted.
  3. The National Center for Victims of Crime says that Americans age 65 and older are more likely to be targeted by fraudsters and more likely to lose money once targeted.
  4. People 60 years and older were 26 percent of all fraud complaints tracked by the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 -- the most of any age group. 
  5. One in every five Americans age 65 or older has been abused financially, according to a 2010 survey by the Investor Protection Trust, a financial-education organization. 
While many scams are perpetrated by strangers on the telephone or sitting at a computer anywhere in the world, financial misappropriation often happens in our own homes or at our front door.  Everyone needs to take steps to make themselves safe.  Here are some rules to adopt:
  1. Never respond to a phone call.  Ask for the information in writing or just hang up.  Your bank or other financial institution as well as the IRS will always put their request in writing.  Even if the person says they are a neighbor or relative, do not believe them.  Scammers use surprise and urgency to their advantage.  Never give out any information over the phone or in response to an email (and don't click on the links!).
  2. Only contribute to charities that you have researched and that you know for a fact are legitimate.
  3. Talk over large requests for charity or demands for payment with your family, your financial consultant, your lawyer, your pastor or one of the leaders at Homestead Village.  It is better to get counsel that concurs than pay the money and then regret it later.
Homestead Village does everything it can to keep our community free of scams and fraudulent activity.  If we become aware of any behavior that puts our residents at risk, we take immediate action for the well being of all who call Homestead Village their home.