Aging Options

Protecting older family members from scams

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Aging is a family affair.  We say it.  You know it. 

But, we all need to act on it.  A group of 20-somethings was just arrested in Manhattan for illegally obtaining $400,000 from elderly victims between 2010 and 2013.  They must have been inept.  Usually scammers hurt their victims for millions of dollars. Still, the scammers got to their victims the way most scammers do when they aren’t members of the family (more on that later).  They bought a list and began calling.  Spend a day at home and you’ll quickly see what I mean.  The phone rings endlessly at my house and I’m on the Do Not Call Registry.   Spend a day at home when you are isolated and you might be tempted to pick up the phone and talk to one of the nice people who just wants to inform you that you won the lottery.  In Nigeria.

So how do people fall victim to one of the oldest telemarketing scams?  They get lonely.  They get greedy.  They inadvertently provide information to someone that sounds official or like family like this one that comes through the internet.   Sometimes they are just polite such as the scam when a caller calls the victim, lets the phone ring once and hangs up.  The victim calls an unfamiliar number and gets charged hundreds of dollars for the call.  That’s a new one in Washington state according to King 5 News.  There’s always something new but it’s the same old thing.  Someone wants you to part with your hard earned money in a way that doesn’t require them to work at all.

How do you avoid being scammed by strangers?  If you have an older family member, have regular conversations about the types of scams being perpetrated against older people.  If you have a loved one that admits to being scammed don’t get all righteous and exasperated with them.  Report the crime.  Be supportive of the victim.  Try to find methods to reduce the possibility of being scammed.  Stay up to date on the latest scams (the Attorney General’s office keeps track).

Now for the blood sucking family members that scam us.  Sounds harsh doesn’t it?  But according to AARP, 57 percent of fraud against elderly family members is perpetrated by family.  We’re not talking about the guy that represents himself as a beloved grandson with a broken leg in Mexico that needs cash (you know that’s a scam-right?).  We’re talking about family members that convince older adults to sign over a house, buy a car so they can get to work, or make unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts among other things.  The problem with these scams is that they can feel legitimate or it can seem wrong to report the family member’s activities to authorities but just like theft by strangers, theft by family members can leave you destitute like the woman in this story.

Protect yourself and your loved ones by staying up to date on the latest scams, making sure that you (or your loved one) don’t become isolated, having conversations about scams so that it stays topmost in your mind and when you do get ripped off by whomever, report it so that more theft isn’t perpetrated.  The FBI estimates that only 1 in 25 crimes against the elderly are reported.  That’s a crime of a different sort.  Don’t be part of the problem.  Do your part to fix it.

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