Protect your Senior from Fraud- Part 1

Fraud: Is your Senior at risk?

Part 1 of 2        Go to Part 2

Mary was relaxed knowing that her Dad was being well cared for in a reputable nursing home. Then his Visa bill arrived. One of the aides in the nursing home had taken the credit card and used it to buy herself a large amount of home furnishings. The clerk in the home furnishing store was able to identify the perpetrator.
Some places to "check it out":

National Fraud Information Center
9:00am-5:30PM EST

National Charities Information Bureau
1-212-929-6300 (NY)

Philanthropic Advisory Service Council of Better Business Bureaus
1-703-276-0100 (VA)

Senior citizens represent 12 per cent of the U.S. population, but are 35 per cent of all fraud victims.

Several factors make Seniors more vulnerable to fraud:

  • A desire to be helpful or charitable opens the door to those who wish to fraudulently tug at the heart strings.
  • A generation with more trust of others provides opportunity to abuse that trust.
  • Loneliness makes a senior more willing to talk with a friendly stranger.
  • Seniors tend to be home when the con artists wish to stalk their prey.
  • Some seniors have lost a degree of physical or mental acuity making them even more vulnerable.

A senior may have developed a dependency on a dishonest caregiver and see no way out of a bad situation. Statistics are showing a significant increase in the exploitation of seniors by caregivers.

Mabel had a live-in caregiver for years. The caregiver received a generous salary of $40,000 per year and had come recommended by the hospital when Mabel had been previously hospitalized. Because Mable lived far away, her family was grateful for the help that Mabel's caregiver provided. Mabel and her caregiver seemed to enjoy a warm relationship often going out to lunch together. When Mabel was 90, her caregiver was taken ill. That's when the family discovered that her caregiver was running a crack cocaine operation out of Mabel's house. The operation was shutdown. Out of fear of retaliation, Mabel was forced to move to a new neighborhood.
Expect your Senior to be targeted at some time.

If it sounds too good to be true, it IS too good to be true!

Your state Attorney General is another fraud protection resource.

As you might expect, Florida has the greatest number of residents over 65. You might be surprised to learn that Pennsylvania has the second largest senior population. In fact, in Pennsylvania close to a million residents will be over age 75 in the year 2000.

Many of us think, 'It can't happen to me". Statistics prove otherwise. And if you are a baby boomer, the target of the con artist is likely your Mom or Dad or Aunt or Uncle.

The con artist may enter by telephone, by mail, by ringing the doorbell, or even by advertising. The target may be cash, nest eggs, life insurance benefits, pensions, annuities, home equity, or personal belongings.

Henry was a trusting elderly man with the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease. Because of his depression era experiences, he had never trusted banks and kept his money in a safe at home. Henry was found to be a soft touch. Although Henry's son visited him often, it only took one week for $5000 to disappear from Henry's safe. Henry couldn't remember to whom he had lent the money. He did remember that the person had told him a story of how badly the money was needed.
To avoid many unwanted calls, ask to be put on a "Do Not Call" list. Send the request to:

Direct Marketing Association Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

Not only can it happen to your elderly relative, your relative has probably already been targeted more than once by a fraudulent telemarketer or fraudulent mailing. Did you know that fraudulent telemarketing accounts for $40 billion of the national total of $100 billion annually lost by consumers to fraud?

When an individual has been fleeced once, their name becomes a marketable commodity. Those who are vulnerable to fraud due to their age and their nature tend to remain vulnerable to fraud. Want to get flooded by mail? Send in a small donation to a phony charity.

Sarah was quite elderly and had always been deeply touched by the plight of those less fortunate than herself. She had a special soft spot for children and animals. Sarah would give a few dollars to the various organizations requesting charitable donations. She would have liked to be able to do more and saw sweepstakes offerings in the mail as a possible way of being able to help others more. Sarah had no children of her own. Although she had many friends, she had long ago stopped entertaining visitors in her own home. When age got the best of Sarah, her home was found to be completely filled with mail. Only small passageways remained for Sarah to maneuver from room to room in her home. Letter after letter implied that she had won or was on the verge of winning an enormous cash prize. None could be thrown out. Intermingled with these announcements of pending wealth were innumerable requests for donations each accompanied by some deeply moving picture or story. Sarah had become too overwhelmed by all of this to pay her bills and apparently too overwhelmed to even mail her donations. Over a thousand dollars of cash donations were found in hundreds of unmailed envelopes. No one knows how much of her nest egg Sarah mailed away to these phony contests and charities. Instead of actually helping the needy as Sarah had intended, Sarah's generous nature only lined the wallets of the predators called con artists.
Three actual letters received by "Sarah". Legitimate? you decide.

Here's a good way to give away your identity.

Triple your winnings!

You cannot lose with these friends from Canada!

Never give your credit card number, phone card number, social security number, or bank account numbers to someone calling you on the telephone.

It is illegal for telemarketers to even ask for these numbers to verify a prize or a gift.

Each of the incidents above is based on situations personally known to the author. And these incidents do not event touch on home improvement fraud. From 1992 to 1997, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection received 4266 home improvement related complaints from persons 60 or older.

It doesn't stop with the first wave. If you have lost money to a scam, it is likely that you will get another call. This time it is an offer to recover the lost money. This "second wave" of fraud is a common practice.

Victims will often tell law enforcement about how nice the con artist was, how he didn't look or sound like a criminal. A con artist that looks or sounds like a criminal will not be successful. You cannot differentiate the criminal by look or sound.  That nice man or woman on the telephone is most likely working from a script designed to lure you in and designed to overcome your concerns. Your instinct may be to be polite while speaking to another person. That person on the other end does not see you that way. You are the mark. He or she will call person after person after person until a mark is found gullible enough to join their game.

Similarly, mailings cannot be judged by appearance. Many fraudulent mailings are specifically and carefully designed to look legitimate. And if you respond, you will be targeted even more.


Part 2 of this article is now available. Go to Part 2.

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