Elderly Fraud Awareness
Information You Should Know
Elderly abuse can not only be of the physical nature, but also in financial affairs. Over the past several years, Elderly Fraud has seen a dramatic rise with some reports stating that 1 in 5 seniors find themselves the victim of fraud. Since many of these cases go unreported (some reports say for every 1 victim, 44 go unreported), it’s safe to assume that this number could be much larger. And, as our senior population continues to increase, so do the cases of fraud. In fact, these cases result in losses of 36 billion annually!
Why Target Senior Citizens?
Unfortunately, fraudsters prey on those who they envision as “easy” targets and who have considerable assets. So what characteristics do senior citizens exhibit that makes them a likely target?
- seniors have more money after years of hard work and investing
- typically, seniors are more trusting than others
- seniors are more willing to provide credentials and other personal information out of fear
- more prone to fall victim to fraudsters who prey on their civic responsibility
Types of Fraud That Target Seniors
This is how the grandparent scam typically plays out: You get a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild. The person explains that he is in trouble, with a story that goes something like this: “There’s been an accident and I’m______ (in jail, in the hospital, stuck in a foreign country), and I need your help.” The caller adds enough details about how, what or where the emergency happened to make the story seem plausible. And the distraught caller, you think to yourself, does sort of sound like your grandson or granddaughter. They will ask for money to be wired and even throw in a statement of please don’t tell mom and dad.
This type of scam has also been tweaked to include what is called arrest fraud. Arrest fraud can occur when a grandparent receives a call from a supposed family member who is in jail and needs money wired right away to help them get out of trouble. If you ever get a call from or about a grandchild or any other relative in danger or trouble, and the immediate request is for cash, you need to pause, calm yourself, say you will have to consult another family member first, and hang up. Then check. If the emergency is by any chance real, you can still respond appropriately.
A lottery scam is a type of advance-fee fraud which begins with an unexpected email notification, phone call, or mailing (sometimes including a large check) explaining that “You have won!” a large sum of money in a lottery. The recipient of the message—the target of the scam—is usually told to keep the notice secret, “due to a mix-up in some of the names and numbers,” and to contact a “claims agent.” After contacting the agent, the target of the scam will be asked to pay “processing fees” or “transfer charges” so that the winnings can be distributed, but will never receive any lottery payment. Many email lottery scams use the names of legitimate lottery organizations or other legitimate corporations/companies, but this does not mean the legitimate organizations are in any way involved with the scams. In the lottery scam, often checks may accompany the “winnings” from a legitimate company that would not normally be associated with paying lottery winnings.
There are ways to identify these scams such as misspellings in the verbiage, asking that the winnings be confidential and the easiest way to detect the lottery scam is requesting that the winner send fees in advance. Of course, this is something that no legitimate lottery or contest would request of a winner.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request. They may include the following:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Please be aware the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. They will also never ask for a specific type of payment such as debit cards.
A romance scam is a confidence trick involving fake romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victim’s money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, or identification numbers; or forcing the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf. These types of scams can be nurtured over time to develop a false sense of security. Usually these types of scams will eventually lead to uncomfortable scenarios where people resist their intuition that something is amiss. If in doubt, talk to a family member or the authorities to resolve your doubts.
These are just a few of the many scams that prey on senior citizens and others. It’s imperative to be aware of these and any other attempts to gain information or finances from unsuspecting victims. If you are a victim of fraud or know of someone who may be a victim of fraud, please contact:
Tennessee Department of Human Services, Adult Protection Services Union – 888-277-8366 https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov
For more information TCAD (Tennessee commission on aging and disability) Call 866-836-6678 or www.tn.gov/aging
Physical Abuse Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline- 800-356-6767