Senior Spotlight: Scam Detection & Fraud Prevention (PLUS Election Red Flags)

taxesDid you know that senior citizens lose an estimated $2.9 billion dollars per year to fraud? Elder financial abuse has been named the “Crime of the 21st Century” and the modern method of burglary. In the spirit of protecting our loved ones from scams and fraud, I wanted to update and share a previous post I wrote on ‘Spotting, Stopping & Reporting Scams’.

In addition, AARP has recently posted an article on ‘Election Protection: 5 Voter Scams to Avoid’. Please share these tips with your friends, family & neighbors in an effort to educate and safeguard those most vulnerable to this increasingly common trend, especially at this politically and emotionally charged time of year.

Election Protection: 5 Voter Scams to Avoid

(Courtesy of AARP, 9-23-16)

Survey swindles. Claiming to be doing a political survey, fraudsters may start with a few expected or softball questions, then delve into more sensitive queries about your income, medications or the like. Be especially wary of offers of a prize for participation. Legit political surveys don’t offer them!

Phony fundraising. Crooks sometimes make random calls alleging that they represent a political party, actual candidate or voter cause. Don’t donate over the phone, by email or to a front-door visitor. If you wish to offer financial support, contact the political party directly or through its website.

Registration ruses. Unsolicited offers to update or confirm your voter registration can be an easy method for scammers to obtain personal information that could be used for identity theft. Legit canvassers will have leave-behind forms for you to complete; they shouldn’t ask for your sensitive information.

Vote by phone. Election laws prevent this. In most cases, voters must get an absentee ballot in advance or make other arrangements if they are unable to make it to the polls. In addition to mining personal information in scam emails and robocalls, swindlers could direct you to an overseas callback number with a seemingly all-American area code and an outrageous per-minute calling cost.

Petition ploys. Although less common than other schemes, these could involve unscrupulous advocates promoting hot-button issues such as legalizing marijuana or environmental initiatives — but actually soliciting names, addresses and phone numbers for unwanted sales calls or even ID theft. Sign wisely.

To revisit our post earlier in the year on the why’s & how’s of senior scams – you may find the information below useful to save in your records.

senior-coupleWhy Are Senior Citizens Fraud Targets?!

Most people assume that senior citizens are targets because of the frailty associated with age, and also vulnerability due to memory loss and possibly dementia. In addition, their  established financial status and common failure to report fraud make them an even more attractive con artist audience. The FBI actually has an entire section on senior citizens and why they are such a target for fraudulent schemes. The FBI reports that senior citizens commonly have a ‘nest egg’, excellent credit and were raised in an era where polite and trusting was the norm – not the exception. In addition, the FBI notes that older adults are increasingly open to products and services that promise increased cognitive function, energy, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, etc. These become quick sources of mutual interest and conversation, and are often the perpetrators ‘in’ to access personal information, financial records and health status.

Types Of Fraud

The types of fraud that exist are as rampant and diverse as those who commit the acts themselves. Common fraud types targeted at the senior population include:

Health Care & Health Insurance Fraud

Counterfeit Prescription Drug Fraud

Funeral & Cemetery Fraud

Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products

Telemarketing Fraud

Internet Fraud

Reverse Mortgage Scams

Services Not Performed Schemes

Rolling Lab Schemes

To learn about specific tips for recognizing and avoiding present day scams, visit:https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors and http://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/elderwatch/

aarp fraud watch

Tips & Resources

While there is no one way to protect yourself from every sticky situation, there are some general guidelines that can help you spot a scheme.

1.Never accept products you have not purchased
2.Never disclose any personal information over the phone to an unknown or unverified party
3. Never sign anything you do not completely understand

Photo Courtesy of AARP

Photo Courtesy of AARP

4. Utilize a second set of eyes on any contracts, home repair agreements, financial documents, etc. (i.e. ask a friend, adult child, trusted professional for their feedback)
5.Always consult your physician before purchasing any medical, health or memory related products
6.Research large purchases & services thoroughly before committing
7.Take your time to make a decision; many schemes prey on applying high pressure and requiring an immediate response
8.Set your own limits on sales pitches
9.Ask for license numbers for insurance, real estate, home repair and finance professionals
10.Obtain fees in writing and verify where the money is going (such as financial advisor planning fees, mortgage origination fees, title fees in a home transaction, etc.)

Reporting Fraud 

There are also many ways to report suspected fraud; AARP has even created a new site to track scams in your neighborhood: AARP Scam-Tracking Maphttps://action.aarp.org/site/SPageNavigator/FraudMap.html?cmp=RDRCT-ADV-FRAUD-050916
ElderWatch provides a hotline & online complaint process: Call 1-800-222-444, Option 2 or visit:http://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/elderwatch/report-fraud/
To report a tip or lead to the FBI, click here: https://tips.fbi.gov/
For cyber scams, report suspected abuse to the FBI here: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
For business services and products, you can report issues to the Better Business Bureau®:https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started
For identity theft-related instances, contact the Federal Trade Commission:https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1
At the end of the day, the more due diligence you perform – the better. When in doubt…scout it out!
Trust your gut & follow your instincts – don’t let scammers get the best of your emotions of your pocketbook!
All the best,
Bobbi
Bobbi Decker
VP Business Development & Broker Associate, Today Sotheby’s International Realty
Bobbi Decker & Associates
BRE 00607999
e. bobbi@bobbidecker.com
p. 650.346.5352
w. www.bobbidecker.com
Bobbi Decker & Associates fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. For more information, please visit: http://portal.hud.gov/

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