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Staying alert to the threat of a scam

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Julia’s husband is in the Army and on his first week of a year-long vacation in the desert. So, she wasn’t happy to hear this week that their credit card information was included with other data stolen from Target just before Christmas and that the card he took with him was no longer valid. If the inconvenience of a canceled card and trying to contact someone while he’s en route to a remote site on the other side of the world is all she has to deal with, Julia will have fared fairly well. But that isn’t the case with many people.

According to AARP, roughly one-third of all fraud victims are 65 and over, although there are no hard facts to go by since law enforcement personnel believe that most fraud goes unreported. Older Americans are often targeted because of a pervasive opinion that they have significant amounts of money sitting in their accounts. However, fraudsters don’t just target the wealthy. Even low income individuals can find themselves dealing with financial abuse. Part of the problem for older people is that it isn’t usually strangers that perpetrate the crimes. The people most likely to commit fraud against a senior are their own children and grandchildren. Over 90 percent of fraud is committed by their adult children, grandchildren and other family members.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of fraud committed by someone other than family members. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) provided a list of 10 of the most popular scams that target seniors. They run the gamut from prescription drugs to exorbitant funeral home charges to grandparent scams and take advantage of everything from a desire to help someone out to wanting to look younger. You can find NCOA’s list of the 10 most popular scams here.

Conning seniors is such big money that AARP recently ran a list of Most Wanted Cons in the AARP Bulletin for January 2014.

The natural aging process changes how we process information and makes us more prone to being scammed. Slower memory processes, doubts about our ability to recall information and the greater chance of a traumatic event such as death of a spouse or a serious illness can impede our ability to make decisions that are sound.

In addition, many home appliances like televisions and cell phones have suddenly become elements in cahoots with the bad guys says this article from AARP.

Here’s a list of scams from the FBI. They offer tips for recognizing and avoiding scams and options for reporting should you unfortunately fall victim to one.

To protect yourself from scams, keep in the loop about the latest kinds of scams so you can recognize one when you see it. If you suspect you’ve been scammed contact the authorities and report it. Regardless of whether or not you’ve knowingly been scammed, make a point of checking with the three credit bureaus on a regular basis to make sure no one has been using your information illegally. You have the right to one free credit report from each of the bureaus over the course of the year. You can choose to have them all done at the same time once a year or spread them out over the course of a year and have one done every four months. Here’s more information on them.

If you suspect someone you love has become a victim of fraud or abuse or have reason to believe that you are being abused, contact Adult Protective Services .  Law enforcement cannot fight what they cannot see or do not know.

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