New Scams Targeting the Elderly

California Seniors and Fraudulent Telephone Calls

Older adults are becoming especially susceptible to elder financial abuse, and a recent article in the San Mateo Daily Journal suggests that police have noticed a “rise in fraudulent telephone scams that target seniors.”  Elder abuse can take many different forms, and scammers often prey upon older adults who aren’t familiar with new financial technologies and have money saved.  And this form of abuse can occur anywhere—at the home of a caregiver or at a nursing home.  For example, we recently wrote about a financial abuse scheme at a Palo Alto care community for the elderly.

Old Lady

What have some of the recent scams looked like?  According to the San Francisco police, there’s a new telephone scam in California in which an older adult receives a phone call from a person who claims to be a paralegal who is calling from the Attorney general’s office.  The caller then tells the elderly victim that there’s “a warrant for her arrest” and that she’ll need to “pay a fee by using a Vanilla prepaid cash card, or risk being sent to jail.”  When the scam first was reported by a woman in South San Francisco, the victim described the caller as having a “Russian accident.”

Seniors in California should be on the lookout for scammers running schemes to defraud people over the phone, and they should also be sure to report any potentially fraudulent telephone calls.  According to the police, many victims of these scams aren’t willing to come forward because they’re “often confused, fearful, or embarrassed by the crime.”  As a result, financial fraud has become “the fastest growing form of elder abuse.”

What can older adults and their loved ones do?  First, always report a situation that might fall within the boundaries of financial abuse—authorities can’t combat the problem if they don’t know it’s happening.  Second, have a clear understanding of the types of scams often run on the elderly.  According to the article in the San Mateo Daily Journal, common scams can include the following:

  •      Telephone calls informing the elderly that they’ve won a sweepstakes or the lottery;
  •      Telephone calls offering home repairs or utility repairs;
  •      Requests for seniors to verify their credit card information;
  •      Calls or emails from an alleged “bank examiner”; or
  •      Contact from an alleged “IRS agent.”

While many of these scams are run over the telephone, scammers also target older adults through email.  As a result, it’s important to monitor electronic communication for potential fraud.

How Can Seniors Avoid Scams?

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), scams that target older adults tend to fall into the following categories: health insurance fraud scams, Medicare scams, telemarketing scams, and home repair fraud.  The NCOA provides some of the following tips for seniors to steer clear of being swindled:

  •      Don’t sign insurance forms or contracts until you’ve looked over them completely and understand the terms;
  •      Only give insurance information or financial information to people who have specifically provided you with care;
  •      Protect your health insurance information and Medicare number as if it were a credit card number or bank account number;
  •      Always review your bills, line-by-line, to ensure that you’ve only been charged for services or care you’ve received;
  •      Never buy products from a company you’re not familiar with; and
  •      When you receive a call that you suspect may be a scam, ask for the caller’s name, business name, address, telephone number, and licensure information.

Most importantly, if you suspect that a loved one has been the victim of fraud, contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer today to discuss your claim.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Alejandro Street Photography via Compfight cc

See Related Blog Posts:

Online Map to Track Elder Financial Abuse

Financial Abuse in Palo Alto Care Home?