Protecting Seniors From Fraud

September 22, 2015

Crime pays when you’re a con artist. Every year, telephone and Internet scammers make millions off unsuspecting victims. Chief among their favorite target are seniors. Despite the pervasiveness of this kind of crime, it is possible for seniors to avoid being victimized by this kind of thievery.

The scammer-senior connection

Scammers are well aware that many seniors are easy targets for several reasons, including:

  • They may find it difficult to say “no” to a pitch.
  • They may be lonely and more amenable to talking to strangers.
  • They are less likely to report the crime due to shame or being unaware that they were scammed.
  • They are less likely to discern the scam due to declining cognitive abilities.

Types of phone scams

Fraudulent telemarketers often try to sell bogus products by offering prizes and low-cost products and trips. The callers press their targets to act quickly on the offer and to divulge financial information such as bank account and credit card numbers. To guard against fraud, the FBI urges seniors to:

  • Avoid purchasing anything from companies they’ve never heard of, and to consult a consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, or state attorney general, to confirm the companies’ existence and reputation.
  • Request and review written material about the company before buying anything.
  • Discuss major investments offered by phone with family, friends, and professionals you know and trust.
  • Refrain from accepting offers that you do not understand.

Types of Internet scams

Online fraudulent activity is rampant and takes numerous forms. Take auto fraud, for example. In this case, a scammer advertises a vehicle on a legitimate website, then pressures the victim to purchase the auto quickly and without meeting in person or allowing the vehicle to be inspected. The victim is often told to wire a payment that the seller keeps – and never delivers the vehicle.

There is also a preponderance of online “romance scams.” In these cases, criminals search senior dating sites, social media sites, and chat rooms for people seeking companionship. Scammers then cultivate a relationship (often long distance) with victims before eventually soliciting money for bogus personal emergencies and financial hardships. Once the money is received, the scammers either disappear or seek additional funds from their victims.

In the case of possible auto fraud, romance scams and other schemes, what’s a senior to do?

  • Insist on transparency, which takes such forms as meeting in person. In general, if you can’t have a face-to-face, real-time meeting with the individual, it’s probably best to cease all communication.
  • Do not send funds or financial information to anyone who will not allow you or a trusted representative to inspect or vet a product or service beforehand.
  • Cease communicating with a bogus “suitor” as soon as he or she asks for money.

Thanks to technology, telephone and Internet scammers are more prevalent and elusive than ever before. Make sure you don’t become a victim of this burgeoning category of thieves.

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