May 15, 2019
Last year, the U.S. Senate named May 15th as National Senior Fraud Awareness Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about the increasing number of fraudulent schemes targeting the elderly. In this age of technology, it is easier than ever for scammers to find and contact older adults.
Three types of scams that have been common this year are:
• Social Security scams
• Grandparent scams
• Natural disaster agency scams
In Social Security scams, wrongdoers claim to work for the Social Security Administration and ask for personal information from an elderly person that can be used to steal their identity.
In grandparent scams, culprits pretend to be an elderly person’s grandchild, claim to have been involved in a car accident or be in legal trouble, and ask for money to be sent to help them.
Finally, in natural disaster agency scams, scammers pretend to work for a charity taking “donations” after a natural disaster like a wildfire, earthquake, flood, or hurricane.
Other notable scams include lottery scams, investment scams, IRS impersonation scams, online romance scams, and insurance scams. Most scammers are strangers, although friends and family members also commit senior fraud.
Senior fraud is a serious problem. It is estimated that approximately five million older adults are financially exploited each year by scammers, and that the average yearly loss amounts to $3 billion dollars. So, it is important to identify the risk factors for elder financial exploitation. Anyone over the age of 60 is at risk of being targeted by scammers. However, most victims of senior fraud are between the ages of 80 and 89. Women are also more likely to be targeted than men, particularly women who live alone. Poor physical health, cognitive impairment, and social isolation also increase the risk of senior fraud.
Senior fraud can be difficult to identify. Seniors are often too embarrassed to report that they were the victim of a scam, so friends and family members should be on the lookout for signs that elder financial exploitation has occurred.
Such signs include:
• Limited knowledge about their own financial situation
• Bank statements no longer being mailed
• Changes in the will, power of attorney, or property titles
• Strange banking activities
• Missing money
The phone ringing off the hook and an increase in mail can also indicate predatory telemarketers or scammers.
Pay close attention to any odd statements that your elderly loved one makes. While they may not come right out and admit they were the victim of a scam, they may provide some clue that a scam occurred. For example, a mention to rescuing their grandchild from a “bad situation” or saying that the Social Security Administration has been harassing them are warning signs and should not be ignored.
If you suspect senior fraud, please report it. One of the reasons senior fraud is so common is because it’s underreported. Frequently, well-meaning friends or acquaintances are afraid to make a report unless they’re certain that abuse is occurring. Don’t be afraid! Suspected fraud should be reported to the elderly person’s bank, Adult Protective Services, and either the local police or the FBI. Consumer fraud can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.