If you want to get my blood boiling, you let me hear about someone trying to scam an elderly person. Now you may be thinking, seriously who does that? Case in point, was the day one of my former residents came knocking on my office door (with his phone in hand) telling me that he was just informed that he was going to be arrested for an unpaid ticket. Immediately my senses went into “Mama Protective Mode” and I asked could I speak to the person on the phone. The threatening caller who had previously told my resident that “he would not hang up and that he would be happy to hold for his credit card or checking account information to take care of the outstanding debt” naturally had decided to hang up when I unmuted the phone and said, “Hello this is the Administrator, can I help you”? Now this was not before rattling my resident into thinking that this person was legit. Mind you, this resident informed me that he had NEVER received a traffic ticket in his life. As expected, the number that showed up on the caller ID was neither able to be reached or traced. I promptly called the local authorities to alert them of the call as the person calling claimed to be from our local sheriff’s department. Sadly, they informed me that I was not the first or even the fifth person who had called in that day. I saw an article printed in our local paper the next day notifying locals to be aware of the scam. You may think that this is just something that happens in larger areas or that it won’t happen to you or your elderly loved ones. Well let me assure you, it is a very REAL threat and that if it hasn’t happened yet, it more than likely will.
The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015, reveals “that seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse — more than twelve times what was previously reported. It goes on to say that the highest proportion of these losses — to the tune of $16.99 billion a year — comes from deceptive but technically legal tactics designed to specifically take advantage of older Americans.” So thieves are finding more and more ways to target seniors and they are crooked enough to figure out ways to get away with it. So what can you do?
The first thing is to let someone know if you have been a target!
As the Administrator at my community, I announced (the day of the aforementioned call) as everyone gathered for lunch to please be aware of the threat of SCAMS. The resident whom I wasn’t going to identify, chimed in to let everyone know what had happened to him. He said that he wanted them all to be aware. He told the other residents that he knew something was up when the caller asked for sensitive information and that he knew better than to do that. He said he asked “the crook” to hold on the line and that was when he muted the call and came to let me know what was going on. So while things turned out okay in this situation, I think that the other important take away for the day, was that we talked about it so that folks had their radars ready!
Be Radar Ready!
Knowledge is power! Don’t assume that just because YOU know that something sounds
fishy, that others will assume the same. Often times our older generation was raised to be polite and trusting. Sadly, these are traits that crooks prey upon. The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help protect seniors from scam artists and fraud against elders:
- Warn against the dangers of giving out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called. Popular scams include promising information on new health miracle product, a charitable donation, or confirmation of a sweepstakes.
- If someone calls from a “government agency” requesting money, ask for a certified letter on an official letterhead.
- If a salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company–including the company’s name, address and telephone, do business with someone else.
- Never make an “on-the-spot” decision. If the person says you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss the opportunity, it is likely a scam. Legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without taking the time to look into the deal.
- Avoid investments that promise huge profits with no risk. “High-return” investments are not guaranteed and legitimate companies will tell consumers about possible risks involved.
- Put phone numbers on the National Do Not Call registry by phoning 1 (888) 382-1222 or visiting http://www.donotcall.gov (this will help to limit phone calls from telemarketers.)
Sadly, we live in a day and age where scammers are doing anything they can to rip off anyone they can. No one demographic is exempt. Arming our seniors with the valuable information to protect themselves from these predators can help them avoid becoming another senior scam statistic.