After reading the 3 stories of senior fraud in last month’s blog post, you might be wondering, why are seniors so often targeted, who would do such a thing and how can I prevent this from happening to an elderly person in my life? “Scam artists are specifically targeting seniors because they are the fastest-growing segment of the population, which has led to increased demands on Minneapolis law enforcement agencies,” said John Stuck, owner of Home Instead Senior Care® of Minneapolis. In addition, the National Association of Triads, a partnership of law enforcement, has identified these characteristics in some seniors that make them vulnerable:
- Wealth: Money is one of the most notable reasons why seniors are targeted. Scammers consider not only their disposable income but the value of their homes, property, life savings and other assets.
- Availability: Seniors that are retired spend more time at home and are available for phone calls and visits. Scam artists can more easily get in contact with them, often times repeatedly if their first attempt is successful, as with the woman in last month’s blog post who was scammed out of $5,000 over 2-3 months.
- Sickness: Chronic health issues mean that many older adults have difficulty maintaining their property and may rely on outside sources for help. Unscrupulous workers can bilk seniors out of thousands of dollars for a job that should only cost hundreds of dollars. Dementia can exacerbate the problem.
- Isolation: Seniors are often alone when families move away from the Minneapolis area. If they don’t have a family member or home care agency to assist them with large decisions, they can fall prey to fraud.
- Loneliness: Because of their isolation, seniors’ friendships often can be limited, and this can make them vulnerable to that friendly caller who drops by the house. Some scams are even perpetrated by seemingly trusted people who work to build new friendships with older adults and then prey on their vulnerabilities.
Cons against older adults aren’t always acts of blatant theft. They can be subtle, like the retailer who over-charges an older adult or an individual who bills for a service and doesn’t finish the job. A 2011 MetLife Study has identified three elder financial abuse strategies: crimes of occasion, crimes of desperation and crimes of predation.
- Crimes of occasion, or opportunity, are incidents where the senior has something of value and a perpetrator is allowed easy access to it.
- Crimes of desperation are typically those in which family members or friends become so desperate for money that they will do whatever it takes to get it. Many of these family members are dependent on the senior for resources. Some believe that, in return for care, he or she is due compensation, as with the case in last month’s blog post of our client with MS.
- Crimes of predation, or occupation are the most popularized by the media. Most often, a trust is engendered specifically for the intention of financial abuse later. The taking of assets is by stealth and cunning.
As a result, the nonprofit National Association of Triads and Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis have launched a public information program to educate families and seniors about how to protect themselves. The Protect Seniors from Fraud program provides family caregivers with a number of important tools including a Senior Fraud Protection Kit. Download your copy today!
In it, you’ll find these 5 tips to protect seniors from scams:
- Add seniors to the national Do-Not-Call Registry. A study has shown that one of 10 telemarketing callers is a scammer. People may register their residential telephone number, including wireless numbers, on the Do-Not-Call Registry at no cost. To register online and for additional information, go to www.donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 888-382-1222; for TTY, call 866-290-4236. You must call from the phone number you wish to register.
- Shred documents that could be useful to criminals, including bank statements, credit-card statements and offers, and other financial information. Documents that need to be preserved, such as tax filings and car titles, should be stored in a safe deposit box.
- Insist that your senior calls the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) or gets a BBB Business Review online at bbb.org before acting on a phone call or a piece of mail, or agreeing to a visit from an unknown person, business or charity. Point out suspicious mailings, especially look-alike envelopes that mimic letters sent from the Social Security Administration or Internal Revenue Service.
- Insist that your senior never give out personal information nor agree to give money over the phone. Rather ask for written information to be sent through the mail. The best rule of thumb is to “never provide information in a phone call that you did not initiate.”
- Establish a strong defense by posting a “No Solicitation” notice by senior’s front door and help them to sort through his or her incoming mail. A Home Instead Senior Care CAREGiver actually prevented fraud by noticing endless magazine subscriptions, along with invoices for them!
Do these tips sound helpful? If so, download your own Senior Fraud Protection Kit and learn 5 more!
According to experts, the top three crimes targeting seniors are identity theft, Medicaid/Medicare and medication fraud, and financial exploitation. The demographics of an aging population and the sophistication of scammers are adding up to big losses – both financially and emotionally – for older adults. The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase since 2008.
Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis clients is urging Minnesota families to be protect senior loved ones from scammers who may be targeting them with clever cons that could jeopardize not only their life savings but their independence.