Statistics say that 5% of persons over the age of 65 have been the victims of financial fraud. That number, sadly, is most likely entirely too low due to the fact that many victims never report the crimes, either out of fear, embarrassment or resignation over the thought that nothing can be done about it. Government and law enforcement sources estimate that only 1 in 25 cases are reported at all. And although about 1 in 10 lost more than $100,000 according to an Allianz study, low-income seniors are targeted as well as wealthier ones.
Should you be worried? Here are some warning signs that your parent may be a victim:
- They receive lots of unsolicited phone calls offering great deals, free trips, prizes, or asking for charitable contributions. Unscrupulous persons often sell lists of phone numbers belonging to receptive people. Suggest that your parents screen their calls and sign them up on the federal Do Not Call List (donotcall.gov).
- They receive lots of mail requesting donations. Go to the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service (dmachoice.org) to remove them from mailing lists for unsolicited mailings.
- You notice that they are making regular or frequent payments to out-of-state or foreign companies, are receiving more magazines than they could possible read, or are receiving lots of cheap and unneeded knick-knacks in the mail.
- They begin changing important documents such as wills or powers of attorney, or they add someone you don’t know or trust to bank accounts or credit card accounts.
- You notice a shortage of food in the house or that bills are being paid late.
- They shut you out; con artists can trick seniors into thinking it’s their family who is out to get them and that he/she, the scammer, is the only one who really cares.
Con artists often pose as trustworthy helpers and rely on the fact that not only do seniors expect honesty, they are also less savvy about their rights in an increasingly complicated marketplace. Add that to the fact that people over 65 are more likely to be home on any given day at any given time, and you’ve got a recipe for foul play.
If you suspect that your parent or someone you care about is the victim of a scam, report it to the police and Adult Protective Services.