Older adults are often a favorite target for con artists. Cons will use personal information gathered from research or perhaps a spouse’s obituary. They use persistence and intimidation to deceive their victims. Con artists can appear very trustworthy and you can be taken in very easily. Cons are very smart at what they do. Only a fraction of abuse is reported, often because the victim is too embarrassed to come forward.
What is financial abuse? Financial abuse is the misuse of a person’s funds, assets, or obtaining property and funds without his/her knowledge and full consent. The perpetrator is not acting in the best interest of the individual. Financial abuse forces you to become dependent on a person who is NOT looking out for your wellbeing. It can involve taking money, property, forging checks, using deception to get you to sign a Power of Attorney (POA), Deed, or a Will. Promising to take care of you for the rest of your life in exchange for money or property and not following through with this promise.
In most cases the perpetrators are family members; daughter, son, grandchildren, nieces/nephews or their spouses. Many of these perpetrators have a gambling problem, substance abuse issues, financial issues or may be unemployed. Family members often feel that they are “entitled “to the money. Some abusers come in the form of a caregiver. This is another reason to hire through a reputable Home Care Agency, rather than a private aide. Another is that the con will claim to “love” the person, often referred to as a “sweetheart scam”.
People who are isolated or lonely can be at greater risk of being a target. People who have had a recent loss, people who have physical or mental disabilities, or those who have limited knowledge of financial matters are more at risk. The elderly can be more susceptible to scams and financial abuse if they have family members that are unemployed or have substance abuse problems.
Identity Theft is when someone uses your name, address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name or social security number to drain bank accounts, open credit cards, take out loans or even sell your Home!
The Jury duty scam is an easy way for a con to get your social security number. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator saying that you did not show up for jury duty, and in order to cancel the arrest warrant, they ask for your social security number and date of birth to verify your information. Don’t EVER give your social security number, date of birth, or any personal information over the phone, unless YOU initiated the call.
Scammers call and tell you that you have won a sweepstakes or lottery. Then they tell you that you must pay the taxes or fees upfront. They may send you a fake check, and ask you to send the tax money or fees from the deposit, and before the check clears, they have your money, and you have a fake check in your account. A man in Quebec sent a total of $160,000.00 to pay taxes on a 3.3 million winnings. A woman in Massachusetts sent over $400,000.00 over a one year period to in an attempt to claim her prize money.
Should you ever receive a call from a police officer or an emergency room attendant either here in the US or from another country, beware. These crafty scammers call to say a loved one has been hurt or arrested and needs money for care or to be bailed out of jail. Don’t send money unless you have confirmed this with another family member.
Throw away all sweepstakes. Some cons will send material that looks like a bill, in hopes that you will pay it. Do not fill out questionnaires and return them, you may be giving out personal information about yourself. Don’t let someone pressure you over the phone. Don’t give on emotion. Take time to “think about it”.
How do you protect yourself?
Never give out your Social Security number. Never give your mother’s maiden name, date of birth, and other personal information unless you initiated the call. Avoid emotional buying or investing, avoid impulse buying. Don’t make a purchase over $100.00 without discussing it first with a trusted friend or family member. Shred all financial documents. Put yourself on the Do Not Call Registry. Check your credit report annually. Don’t open the door to people you don’t know. Don’t be embarrassed to report it.
“Do Not Call” Registry 1 (888) 382-1222 or donotcall.gov
“Opt Out” Registry 1 (888) 567-8688
Lifespan Elder Abuse Prevention 1 (800) 454-5030
Adult Protective Monroe County (585) 753-6532
Monroe County Sheriff (585) 753-4178
NYS Office of the Aging 1 (800) 342-9871