When we founded American Senior Alliance three years ago, our mission was to fight to help our senior citizens keep those hard-earned dollars in their pockets. We wanted to ensure older adults stayed engaged in the legislative process while keeping them informed on issues that might affect their financial security. Sadly, a scam seems to be running rampant through the senior community and we would like to bring it to the forefront.
Just last week, we were notified of a clever crime that has our elder population right in the crosshairs of the con artists. The fraudsters seem to be playing on the heart strings of grandparents by using creative tactics to steal thousands of dollars from them.
The crime goes like this: An older adult receives a call from someone posing as an attorney in another state and says he is representing a family member, typically a grandchild for Driving Under the Influence. The attorney then tells the grandparent that they need $5,000-$10,000 to bail the grandchild out of jail. It is quite amazing how creative the fraudsters can be. Prior to the call, they gather all kinds of information through the internet especially researching social media sites. By the time the fraudster makes contact, he reveals so much information that the grandparent eventually buys in. Tragically, grandparents are acting quickly on emotion and sending thousands of dollars overnight to out of state addresses.
Thankfully, a recent similar crime in Tennessee had a happy ending when a savvy UPS employee prevented an elderly customer from sending $4000.00 overnight to a con artist to bail a family member out of jail.
According to research by Stanford Center on Longevity and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Investor Education Foundation, those over 65 are more likely to have lost money to a financial scam than someone in their 40's. The reason fraudsters target senior citizens is because many of them live alone, are more trusting and take time to listen. We would like to encourage older Americans to remain vigilant as they are often victims of fraudulent schemes dealing with charities, home improvements, financial scams, credit cards and sweepstakes.
The tactics that bad guys use often vary, but they typically use qualities that build trust like friendliness, compassion and concern.
What should you do if you are scammed?
- Do not interact with the scam artist. Sometimes this may be difficult, but it is a good idea to cease any communication or contact with the fraudster.
- Contact your financial institution. If you've provided bank accounts, credit card or debit card information to the fraudster, inform our bank immediately.
- According to USA.gov, there are many types of scams and it is difficult to know where to report them. First you should file a report with your local police department and then contact your state consumer protection office. You can also report certain types of scams and fraud to federal enforcement agencies. Federal agencies usually can’t act on your behalf, but they can use complaints to record patterns of abuse.
- Common scams or fraud: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
- Telephone scams: Submit a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about mysterious charges on your bill (cramming), an illegal switch of your service (slamming), or other unwanted calls and texts including telemarketing.
- Financial fraud including credit, loans, and mortgages: Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about problems with mortgages, credit and loan-related fraud including money transfers, student loans, credit reports, and other financial services.