July 9, 2012
The stories of senior scams are as personal as the people they impact. Following, from the Home Instead Senior Care® network and those working closely with it, is a sampling of "real-life" stories to help educate family caregivers and seniors, and prevent future victims of fraud.
Even in a care community, seniors are not safe from scammers. One Home Instead Senior Care staffer has been called to provide resources and support for care communities in her area where scammers are getting in and posing to be family members for the purpose of collecting personal information on older adults.
When that occurs, their identity can be compromised and their assets drained. "Care communities are not immune from the clever tricks of those who are looking to defraud older adults," said the Home Instead Senior Care staffer.
Investment fraud is one common scheme that strips older adults of their life savings. And dementia can impact seniors' judgment, making it more difficult to protect them.
One Home Instead Senior Care franchise owner tells of a senior who was conned out of $200,000 in an empty investment before a Home Instead CAREGiverSM was called in to help with the senior. To help ensure the senior doesn't lose any more money to con artists, "The daughter now has taken over management of the client's money," the franchise owner said. "But instead of being grateful to his adult child, the senior feels that his daughter is preventing him from making money as part of what he still sees as a good business deal in spite of the fact that it is a fraudulent scheme."
The senior's family had long since moved away or died. She was alone in her large house of 50 years. That's why it was so comforting to have "Ed" next door. Ed offered to do things that she no longer could, like change light bulbs and weed her garden. The senior was so grateful she wanted to pay him a little each week. Then Ed began offering to go to the store. "Did he return the change?" she wondered. "I'm sure he did. I'm getting so forgetful." When she didn't have cash, Ed would take her bank card. It seemed as though she was short of money lately and couldn't understand why.
As it turns out, "Ed" was stealing money from the woman until a niece hundreds of miles away figured out what was going on and put a stop to it.
The urgent call sounded so convincing: "I'm your grandson 'Billy' and I'm in trouble. But I don't want Mom and Dad to know. Please send money, Grandma." The caller isn't a grandchild, but a con artist posing as a grandchild, sometimes with the help of voice alteration equipment to sound more convincing.
The senior, like so many others, fell for it and headed to Western Union to wire the money. Fortunately, Western Union was suspicious and held up the transaction while the senior called to check out the story. The scam was successfully averted. "Our Home Instead Senior Care office started providing service the day after this happened to serve as a second set of eyes and ears," noted a franchise owner. "The senior was still very upset."
The 88-year-old loved giving to his favorite charities. Not much; just $10 here, $20 there. But his name got passed to the wrong people and soon he was getting letters every week. As it turns out, he got on a "sucker's list" of older adults who scammers know are willing to open up their pocketbooks for a good cause.
Some of the letters preyed on the perceived loneliness of seniors, with language such as, "This offer is being sent only to you because you are special." Others looked like official charities. The savvy senior recognized the ruse, but one letter, from an official-looking charity, fooled even him – until his daughter checked online with the Canadian Council for Better Business Bureaus to discover it was a scam.
Many seniors continue to be health and weight conscious as they age. And there are plenty of plans that promise results. The adage of "let the buyer beware" can be lost on seniors who are unfamiliar with the ways of the Internet.
One Home Instead Senior Care client ordered a weight loss plan online, and decided that the plan wasn't working. But when she tried to cancel the order, there was no way to do that – no phone number, no contact information. A Home Instead Senior Care staff member researched the company and eventually helped the senior successfully cancel the order.
Download the below information on what to do if you loved one has been scammed:
- U.S. What to Do If Your Senior Has Been Scammed (PDF 220k)
- Canadian Who to Talk to If you Think Your Senior Has Been Scammed (PDF 220k)
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