Gayle Reeves' Blog

Watch Out for Scammers

Gayle A. Reeves - Monday, February 01, 2016

FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE

            There has been a lot in the news about fraud schemes, especially those directed at senior citizens.  In fact, AARP’s monthly publication focused on this very topic.  If you have not read it, I recommend it.  While there are many types of financial abuse and exploitation, I will only cover a few in this article.

            The beginning of tax season brings its own type of fraudulent activity.  Someone will call posing as an IRS agent and asking for your personal information to confirm they are talking to the right person.  The IRS NEVER makes telephone calls, nor do they send emails.  Everything is done through the mail.  Last year the IRS and State of Ohio experienced a great deal of fraudulent returns.  Don’t be surprised if you receive correspondence from the IRS where they request you to verify your information before they issue a refund.  This is done for your protection!

            The same thing applies with credit cards.  If you receive an email notice from your credit card company that asks you to click on a link to verify your information, don’t do it.  The link might send you to a fake website that is monitored by the scammers.  Also, do not provide personal information over the phone to anyone saying they are from your credit card company, even if they say there is fraudulent activity on your card.  If you are concerned, hang up and call the customer service number on your card or billing statement.

            Despite all of the warnings more and more people are taken advantage of by scammers through telephone calls.  It might be someone calling to say they are your grandchild (or on behalf of your grandchild) and need money to get out of a desperate situation. Don’t send the money.  Hang up and call your child or grandchild to confirm what is going on.  Or, this may be as simple as a telephone call claiming you won a prize, which you may claim simply by sending in money to cover processing and insurance fees.  I have even it where the scammer sends you a check on the pretense of covering these costs.  You are instructed to deposit the check into your bank account, write a check for the amount back to the scammer, and your prize will be sent.  In reality, their check bounces, yours clears, and your money is gone.  No prize is ever sent.  Remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

            Unfortunately, sometimes the people that we should be able to trust the most will take advantage of us.  Family members and caregivers will prey on the senior.  What we usually see in these circumstances is a new friend, long lost relative, or caregiver interferes with the family relationships by isolating the senior from family, friends, and social ties, creating negative attitudes towards the family and friends, taking the senior to a new doctor or attorney, and interfering with any outside efforts to assist the senior.  This new best friend then starts the process of getting control over the senior’s property.  Once the senior has nothing left, the person moves on to their next victim.

            If you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing any type of financial abuse, you should both call your local police department and the elder abuse hotline (adult protective services) to report the abuse.  Many crimes of exploitation go unreported because the senior is too embarrassed to tell anyone.  These con artists and scammers are experienced and smooth when it comes to convincing someone to part with their money.  The only way to stop them is to report the crime, even if is a family member.

            Some helpful websites are www.preventelderabuse.org, consumerfinance.gov and www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.