July 9, 2012
The "sold" sign posted on the front yard was like a beacon for the con men, who had observed the elderly couple in the process of selling their home to move to an assisted living facility.
These fraudsters knocked on the door and offered to purchase the collection of expensive art those seniors had spent years collecting. The problem was, what seemed like a credible offer to the older couple turned out to be only a fraction of what the art was worth, leaving the seniors – who agreed to the deal – out thousands of dollars.
Here are indicators that may prompt a con artist to take special note of an older adult's home.
- The condition of a home can send up a "red flag." Unscrupulous workers often are trolling neighborhoods on the lookout for roofs that should be repaired, driveways that could be re-paved, and trees that must be cut down.
- More seniors than ever are on the Internet, and computers and email accounts that go unprotected can leave older adults vulnerable. A senior also should be made aware of phishing scams that indicate they have won or inherited a large sum of money.
- The Postal Service continues to be one of the most effective means for scammers to perpetrate their con games. Older adults should ask for help in reviewing bills, offers and correspondence from strangers if they are unsure.
- Important documents should be kept in a secure place, like a safe deposit box, and other documents that are not needed but have personal account information should be shredded.
- While the door-to-door salesperson is a growing thing of the past, many scammers will still approach seniors simply by knocking on the door. Remind loved ones that if they don't know the individual at the front door, it may be best not to answer the door, especially if they are alone.
- While many adults are replacing land lines with cell phones, older adults often retain their home phone, which offers fraudsters another avenue into an older adult's life. Remind seniors not to respond to offers or provide personal information on calls that they have not initiated.
Now is the time to sit down with your senior loved one and talk about scammers. If you and your senior live in different cities, it's a good idea to contact other relatives, friends and neighbors, or a Home Instead CAREGiverSM who could periodically check on your loved one. Don't delay in contacting local law enforcement if you think someone has defrauded your senior or might be trying to do so.
Learn what to do if your senior 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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