As the baby boomer generation ages, elder fraud is on the rise. One recent study reported by Consumers Digest estimated that there are at least 5 million cases of this financial abuse in the United States each year, but law enforcement or government officials learn about only 1 in 25 cases.
It is a sad fact that certain individuals and businesses specifically target seniors in a variety of fraudulent schemes. There are many reasons why the elderly are an ideal target for thieves. They have likely spent years amassing considerable wealth and resources. A combination of poor health and weakened reasoning ability make them more inclined to go along with suggestions. They are also less likely to be familiar with modern technology, such as mobile banking, email, and digital security.
Arkansas seniors and their families should be aware of and remain vigilant against such unscrupulous predators who are looking to separate senior citizens from their hard-earned savings. Here are some common scams to look out for:
1. Healthcare/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud
The complexities of our healthcare system can be overwhelming for anybody, and for seniors on Medicare, it can be even more so, leaving them vulnerable to those seeking to take advantage this critical aspect of their daily lives. In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
The medications most seniors need can be expensive, leading many to look around, mainly on the Internet, for better deals. However, fake medications bought from these sites may not only lack the benefits of the real deal, they may also contain dangerous substances that can inflict even more harm. Saving a few dollars could come at a much greater cost.
3. Funeral and Cemetery Scams
After reading obituaries in the newspaper, some scammers will attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts. Disreputable funeral homes may also try to scam bereaved family members by adding unnecessary charges to the bill or making misrepresentations as to what is required.
4. Telemarketing and Internet Fraud
Whether it be purchases through a website that are never delivered, the notorious “Nigerian email scams” seeking money in exchange for the promise of receiving a cut of a great fortune, or “phishing” scams that attempt to get seniors to disclose personal information, the Internet offers nearly unlimited opportunities for scammers to directly or indirectly get seniors’ money. Similarly, unsolicited calls soliciting money for fake charities, calls announcing that the senior has won a bogus sweepstakes or contest that will require them to front money to claim their prize, or callers holding themselves out as authorities or utilities can all prey on the elderly.
5. The Grandparent Scam
In the “grandparent scam,” the scammer will place a call to an older person and say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect.
While all of the foregoing schemes involve strangers, it is often a family member who betrays a senior and takes advantage of them. In fact, one study found that over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews. In some cases, trusted caretakers take advantage of an elderly person by persuading him or her to hand over control of important finances, such as bank accounts and insurance proceeds. In other situations, loved ones and even adult children pressure older adults to sign powers of attorney that give the other person the right to change life insurance beneficiaries and tamper with financial documents.
Whatever the circumstances, and whoever the perpetrator, elder fraud is an injustice that we at the Kendall Law Firm cannot abide. We treat seniors and their families with the respect and compassion they deserve and are committed to helping older generations preserve what they have worked a lifetime to build. If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of a scam that preys on the vulnerabilities of senior citizens, we can help. Call us today at 479-464-9828 to discuss your case.
This website has been prepared by Kendall Law Firm, PLLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.