Schemes Targeting Elderly Not Limited to Tax-Related Scams
While tax-related fraud schemes aimed at seniors have been in the news, financial schemes targeting the elderly aren’t restricted to those involving Internal Revenue Service impersonation calls or tax refund fraud. The U.S. Department of Justice has just filed a civil complaint alleging multiple international mail fraud schemes that have defrauded elderly and vulnerable U.S. victims out of tens of millions of dollars. According to the complaint, U.S. residents received fraudulent direct mail solicitations that falsely claimed that individual victims had won, or would soon win cash, prizes or other bonus. The solicitations appeared to be personalized even though they were really form letters mailed to hundreds of thousands of potential victims. The solicitations typically matched one of three types:
- False claims that the victim is the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes and will receive winnings if they pay a processing fee;
- False claims that the victim has won a large sum of money and should purchase a “guaranteed,” “secret” method for winning lotteries and other games of chance; or
- Solicitations allegedly from a psychic who has “seen” the victim winning large sums of money through the lottery or other contest which will only happen if with the purchase of various supernatural and divinatory objects or services.
In some instances, the solicitations claim that the recipient has already been confirmed the winner of a prize in bold, prominent lettering, but then explain in smaller text that the prize drawing has not yet taken place or that there is no prize drawing. Potential prizes touted were said to be in excess of $20,000 and included cash, checks, amounts held in trust, and cars. DOJ estimates that more than half a million victims responded, netting the defendants $18 million.
David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.