Critter Corner: It’s International Fraud Awareness Week— Things to Know!

Dear Oakley,

Senior fraud seems to be on the rise. I have had several friends who have been affected by it, unfortunately. I understand that it is International Fraud Awareness Week. What are some common types of fraud I should know about so I don’t fall victim?

Thanks for your help!

Farah Aud

It’s International Fraud Awareness Week!

Dear Farah,

Every November, hundreds of organizations around the world pledge to increase fraud awareness in their workplaces and communities. International Fraud Awareness Week was established by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in 2000 to raise awareness about fraud. 

The weeklong campaign encourages us to take steps to minimize the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education. 

Financial Crimes against Seniors

Financial crimes against seniors fall under two general categories: fraud committed by strangers and financial exploitation by relatives and caregivers.  

Fraud Committed by Strangers

Fraud committed by strangers generally involves deceiving the victim with the promise of goods, services, or other benefits that are nonexistent, unnecessary, never intended to be provided, or misrepresented. Below is just a sampling of some of the common scams currently targeting seniors. Read our many articles on the subject for more details about these and other common scams and what to do if you’re a victim. 

  • Prizes and sweepstakes: These generally involve informing the victim that the person could win, or has already won, a “valuable” prize or a lot of money. 
  • Health insurance scams: These solicitors typically claim to be a Medicare representative and ask for personal information.
  • Telemarketing scams: Telemarketing scams are one of the most common scams to happen to the elderly, due to no face-to-face interaction and convincing charades of being an authority figure. 
  • Investments: In investment scams, scammers persuade the senior to invest in real estate, annuities, or stocks and bonds by promising unrealistically high rates of return.
  • Charitable contributions: Playing on some seniors’ desire to help others, offenders solicit donations to nonexistent charities or religious organizations, often using sweepstakes or raffles to do so.
  • Home and automobile repairs: Scammers may recommend fraudulent “emergency” home repairs, often requiring an advance deposit. They may fail to do any work at all, start but not finish the work, or do substandard work that requires correction. 
  • Loans and mortgages. Seniors may experience cash flow shortages due to needed medical care or home repairs. Predatory lenders may provide loans with exorbitant interest rates, hidden fees, and repayment schedules far exceeding the senior’s means, often at the risk of the elder’s home, which has been used as collateral.
  • Health, funeral, and life insurance. Many seniors are concerned about having the funds to pay for needed medical care or a proper burial, or to leave to loved ones upon death. Unscrupulous salespeople take advantage of these concerns by selling policies that duplicate existing coverage, do not provide the coverage promised, or are altogether bogus.
  • Health remedies: Seniors often have health problems that require treatment. Preying on this vulnerability, scammers market a number of ineffective remedies promising “miracle cures.” Unfortunately, given this false hope, many seniors delay treatment they really need, and their health deteriorates further.
  • Travel: Compared with younger adults, seniors often have more leisure time and are searching for low-cost travel packages. Scammers may offer packages that cost far more than market rates, provide substandard accommodations, or do not provide the promised service.
  • Romance scams: In these scams, a person (or a bot) pretends to be romantically interested in someone. Once the person is hooked, they may hand over credit card information and personal information, putting themselves at risk for fraudulent charges and identity theft.

For more details on identity theft and forgery, please read today’s Ask the Expert article. 

Financial Exploitation by Relatives and Caregivers

Unlike strangers, relatives and caregivers often have a position of trust and an ongoing relationship with seniors. Financial exploitation occurs when a relative or caregiver steals, withholds, or otherwise misuses their victims’ money, property, or valuables for personal advantage or profit, to the disadvantage of the senior loved one. Their methods can include the following:

  • Taking the senior’s money, property, or valuables;
  • Denying services or medical care to conserve funds;
  • Signing or cashing pension or Social Security checks without permission;
  • Borrowing money (sometimes repeatedly) and not paying it back;
  • Giving away or selling the senior’s possessions without permission;
  • Giving out the senior’s money to family or friends;
  • Forcing the senior to part with resources or to sign over property;
  • Misusing ATM or credit cards or using them without permission.

For more details on fraud against seniors and helpful resources, access helpful tips and resources from AARP Fraud Helpline and see our many articles containing resources on the subject. Please also see https://www.fraudweek.com/resources for helpful resources and videos.

Hope this helps!

Oakley

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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