Financial exploitation has grown exponentially and become the most common form of elder fraud. Millions of older Americans fall victim to this scam every year resulting in losses of over 30 billion dollars annually. Seniors are often targeted due to the fact that they typically have a retirement or savings; plus, they tend to be very trusting individuals. There are various examples of financial exploitation performed by scam artists that one should be vigilant and aware of. Some examples include funeral or cemetery scams, romance fraud, health insurance fraud, and most commonly phone/internet fraud. We will break down these examples a little more below.
An example of this would be if a senior were to lose their spouse and during the funeral or memorial service they are approached by someone who claims the deceased spouse owes them money. They then pin it on the living spouse to take up the deceased’s “debt”.
This can be performed towards seniors who seek companionship in some way. The abuser often forms a special bond with the senior and once they have been successful with creating an attachment, they will begin asking for money–usually in small increments and increasing over time.
This is often a cold call situation where the scammers will blindly call seniors and ask probing questions about their health situation and policy information. The details obtained from this conversation can lead to them charging a fee for their “overdue counsel” or for a “policy renewal”.
Here is another circumstance where a senior is called blindly and the caller will acquire pieces of information prior to the call. There are cases where they pose as the senior’s bank and state that they underpaid a bill and late fees have incurred. The caller will pose as an ethical helper and offer to assist them in fixing the issue. This can lead to the caller offering to remotely assist the senior by having them download software that allows open access to the senior’s computer. While they chat on the phone, the caller can then obtain a great deal of sensitive information… in addition, potentially learning their passwords if they are saved on their computer. While attempting to “help” the senior a “malfunction” could occur during a transaction to the bank which leads the caller to manipulate the situation. By turning the tables on the senior, the caller can make the senior feel as if they made an error. After the senior feels complete frustration and defeat, the caller can now influence the senior to believe that they may lose their job due to the senior’s “mistake”. Oftentimes they can persuade the senior to send cash via mail to remedy the situation.
The cases listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the financial exploitation of seniors. The seniors targeted tend to be lonely, isolated, or sometimes too proud to reach out for help. Oftentimes, seniors will not report when they have been swindled due to embarrassment, however, the victimization they endure is quite extensive and anyone can fall for it if they are unaware of these hoaxes. One of the most effective ways to prevent elder fraud is by staying involved with seniors around you, whether they are in your community or family.
For more information regarding elder fraud check out these resources: