Scams, Scams, & Scams!

There is nothing original about this newsletter for I am going to plagiarize from an article published in the Wichita Eagle newspaper by Denise Groene, State Director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas entitled “How to protect the elderly from scammers.” The article in question was published on May 21st and is well worth summarizing for you. Over the last year or so I have had discussions about elder financial abuse including this topic with prosecutors from both the Kansas Attorney General and Sedgwick County District Attorney’s offices.

Why are senior citizens such an easy target? They have money. They own their own home, they have savings, and good credit. They have an easily exploitable characteristic: they were raised to be polite, and they have difficulty saying “no” and hanging up the phone. They are more likely to be interested in products that promise to offset the physical and mental effects of aging. Aging memories can be less reliable, making seniors poor witnesses to the fraud. The realization that a scam has taken place may take longer. They may be reluctant to report the fraud because they don’t want their own family members to think that they are vulnerable and can’t take care of themselves. Plus, the embarrassment. And let me give you my two cents worth: they are hard of hearing which makes them an easy target over the telephone.

Common elder scams include but are not limited to the following: grandparent scam in which the scammer poses as a grandchild in a desperate situation and in need of money wired to them. Though usually say they cannot get a hold of mom or dad to help them. Free medical equipment being offered to consumers, then insurers are charge for unneeded or never-delivered services and equipment. Fake calls claiming to be from utility companies stating their services are about to be discontinued unless money is sent immediately, and this can be done over the phone with a credit card. The jury duty scam in which the caller claims to be a court clerk stating he did not show up for jury duty and an arrest warrant will be issued unless the fine is sent in at once.

And it doesn’t end. There is the foreign lottery scam which claims you are a winner in order to collect all you have to do is pay the “taxes and fees” and the balance will be sent to you. And this one as old as the hills. The IRS scam, demanding immediate payment of overdue taxes and interest and threatening arrest. If no money is received. And then there are the callers wanting to update Medicare and Social Security information. I’ve had several clients receive calls from someone alleging that they represent a group of buyers wanting to purchase timeshares. And if you will send them a check for the closing costs, then the sales proceeds will be deposited into your checking account. Also, watch out for callers claiming to represent charities and asking you to make a donation to the use of your charge card. I can’t believe the number of alleged charities who call me at home and I’ve never heard of them.

Watch out for the home repairs scam in which the caller claims to have inspected your house and it is in need of repairs and for a certain amount of money they can fix the problems. And this scam also occurs door-to-door with the goal being to get a down payment check for one-half of the work alleging they need it to get the materials .And then there are calls from a representative of ACME Insurance stating that you are a beneficiary and information is needed to process the claim.

So how do you protect yourself? Screen your phone calls. Only answer or return calls from people you know. Back to the charity phone calls for a moment. Just tell them that they are not on your list of designated charities and request they mail to you the financial information about their charity which will never happen. Never give out account numbers or other private information to a stranger on the phone. Never click on links in unsolicited e-mails. Furthermore, no government entity will never contact you through e-mail. Finally, you can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov.

Now let me leave you with an original thought. What is the best source of information for telephone scammers? The obituaries. They tell everything they need to know. Think about it. They provide the identity of the surviving spouse whose age is pretty easy to determine. They also identify the surviving children and grandchildren plus their whereabouts. With this information they can utilize Facebook to find much more before making phone calls. And consider this: Funeral at 10:00 a.m. Burglary commences at 10:30 a.m. Graveside service at 11:00 a.m. Burglary concluded at 11:30 a.m. Luncheon at Noon.

I better stop for I could go on but I think you get the idea. You have to take steps to protect yourself.

 

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