Fraudsters in cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and California’s Central Valley are actively looking for naïve senior citizens. The scams reflect the real estate challenges from foreclosures, weak sales and abandonment. The scammers fake ownership papers, set up websites to advertise and then walk away with deposits when they find a bargain-hungry buyer.
Real estate scams, in Las Vegas, though, aren’t the only scams focused on the elderly
The swindles cover the spectrum from online romance to counterfeit prescription drugs.
“Scammers target and prey on older adults who are lonely or socially isolated,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, a Las Vegas attorney. “Scammers will develop an online relationship and over time will ask them to send money repeatedly,” he added.
Congames involving Medicare see fraudsters posing as Medicare customer service representatives as they try to get seniors to provide personal information including their Medicare ID Number. The fraudster then takes this data to bill Medicare for fraudulent services and keeps the money.
While prescription drug prices rise, seniors turn to the Internet to save money on medicine. Fraudsters know this and put up websites to advertise cheap medications which are often counterfeit. Seniors who buy the counterfeit drugs quickly realize they’ve been duped.
One type of funeral scheme involves the fraudster scouting obituaries to find information about the deceased. The con artist then tries to extort money from family members or spouses. The cons claim the deceased has an outstanding debt which must be paid and the survivors, being in a vulnerable state, often pay the fake debt.
Society places a good deal of emphasis on physical appearance. Knowing that many seniors want to find treatments or products to help hide their age, fraudsters will advertise anti-aging worthless anti-aging products. Some products may even contain harmful ingredients. That doesn’t keep the scammer from touting the benefit of their product.
As senior citizens are normally not as sophisticated with handling emails and surfing the net, they become targets for scammers. Victims have been fooled into downloading fake anti-virus software or respond to phishing emails sent by cons.
Phone scams have become the most common con used against senior citizens. The scammer may get the elderly to wire or send money by claiming to be a family member in trouble. They may also ask for money by posing as a fake charity — particularly after a natural disaster.
Like younger persons, many seniors now use the Internet to manage finances. According to Cision, more than 40% of seniors now bank online and over 25% pay their bills online. As seniors continue to move their finances online, senior citizens are a primary target for con artists and scammers.
Wooldridge explains encouraging seniors to protect themselves helps protect sensitive financial information.
“Cybersecurity is all about risk reduction,” said Wooldridge. “It’s challenging to reach perfect security, but older citizens can be taught how to make themselves a more difficult target.”
According to ScamWatch over 75,000 reports of scams for the year — for all types — have been reported through June 30, 2018. Of those 75,000+, more than 11% dealt with financial concerns.
The highest amount lost was within investment scams, with almost $30 million handed over to con artists.
Those over 65 made up the largest single age group for targets with more than 12,000 identified.
And those figures are from Australia. In America, the figures are worse.
In a report published by Reuters, one out of every 18 older Americans become a victim to financial fraud or scam each year. That figure does not include those who have been financially abused by family or friends.
The report, penned by the American Journal of Public Health, found 5.5 percent of older adults experience some form of fraud. The estimate consists of elderly citizens living on their own and doesn’t include persons living in institutional settings and those cognitively impaired.
The reports authors are calling on researchers and policymakers to find ways to prevent financial scams as well as healthcare professionals to screen elders for vulnerability.
“I agree that doctors should play a part in helping patients by understanding the signs of possible elder abuse,” said Wooldridge. “It’s more common than we think.”
The FBI’s Common Fraud Schemes webpage gives tips on protecting elderly from fraud. Senior citizens, in particular, should be aware of fraud schemes because:
More tips to protect and help senior citizens can be found on the FBI’s Fraud webpage
The AARP works with hundreds of volunteers every year to help senior consumers recognize and report fraud. Their website provides more information and tools to protect America’s elderly