Financial Scams on the Elderly

A federally funded National Institute of Justice study found that about ten percent of Americans over sixty had been targeted for some form of financial exploitation. Also, a Met-Life study last year estimated the annual loss from this financial abuse was nearly $3 billion.

Scammers target everyone, but seniors often make the ideal target because some have disabilities, may be less knowledgeable about the Internet or tech issues, and often live more isolated lives. To top it off, after a lifetime of building and working, many seniors can be counted on to have some assets and savings used to fund their golden years.

According to an AARP writer who pens a weekly column on these issues, some of the most commonly used current scams include:

1) Lottery Scam: A senior is told that they have won the lottery and need only to make a payment to claim their prize. At times the senior is even given a fake "prize money" check that they can deposit into their own account. The prize check will bounce but often after the senior has paid "fees" or "taxes" to the scammer. Many of these scammers live out of the country (particularly Jamaica) and calls from the area code 876 should also be taken with caution.

2) Grandparent Scam: A scammer posing as a grandchild will call from abroad and claim to need money. Often the grandchild will say that they are in jail and need help to get out. They ask the senior not to tell anyone because of the specific situation. In a similar scam, grandparents apparently receive a call from a grandchild they have serving in Iraq or Afghanistan in need of funds as part of their homecoming.

3) Toilet Paper Scam: Many scammers attempt to pose as members of government agencies. In a popular version, the caller will claim that the senior needs to purchase some product to comply with the law. For example, in one case last year a group of scammers took a reported $1 million from various seniors claiming that new toilet paper needed to be purchased to avoid ruining their septic tanks.

All of us should do our part to raise awareness of these issues to prevent senior financial abuse before it occurs and identify it after it occurs so that those involved can be held accountable.

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