Elder fraud can be described as any financially motivated crime where the perpetrator intentionally misleads or deceives an elder person in order to gain access to the elder’s money for their own use.
Why Don’t Elder Victims Report Their Crimes?
Sometimes the perpetrators are close family members who could be trying to preserve an inheritance.
Other times the perpetrators are complete strangers who prey specifically on the elderly and work to gain their trust, and therefore, the ability to take money from their victim.
The primary reasons elder fraud victims do not report fraud crimes against them include the following:
- Not wanting “to be a bother” (“Deputies have more important things to do.”)
- Fear of retaliation or physical harm
- They believe the crime is their fault
Why Are The Elderly Targeted?
First, the elderly control over 70% of the nation’s wealth, and many of them do not realize the value of their assets.
Second, they often have disabilities that make them more likely to need and accept assistance from others. Disabled elderly are less likely to take action against their abusers out of a fear of embarrassment or simply because they are too impaired to do so.
Third, the elderly often have predictable patterns in their life, such as when they normally receive a check in the mail or when they go to the grocery store or the bank.
What are the signs?
Typically, there is no single indicator that determines that financial exploitation of the elderly is taking place. Look for a combination of the following:
- A new (so called) love interest or “best friend”
- A caregiver who seems to have a lot of control over the elderly client
- A sudden change in the older person’s behavior – they become fearful or evasive
- Signs of neglect in the home
- A caregiver that expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person
- A review of bank statements and cancelled checks shows a change in financial activity or increased activity in the elderly person’s bank accounts
- New legal documents or changes in existing ones
- Getting more services than appear to be necessary
- Eviction notices or notices to discontinue utilities
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
- Questionable explanations given about the elderly person’s finances
- The elderly person is unaware of or does not understand financial arrangements
- “Sweetheart Swindles” – The perpetrator confesses to love and care for the older person, thereby gaining a position of complete trust.
- Telemarketing or fraudulent charity solicitation scams may result in identity theft.
- Sweepstakes or lottery scams. Never pay to collect a prize.
- Reverse mortgage fraud – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides FREE information and assistance on reverse mortgage plans. Do not pay for this information, and work with a family member or attorney when considering a reverse mortgage plan.
- Healthcare scams – Unscrupulous sales persons who peddle expensive equipment or poorly managed in-home healthcare services.
- Home repair/service scams – Persons who ask for cash up front to provide home repairs or services which never materialize or they use inferior materials resulting in shoddy workmanship.
- Insurance fraud – Con-artists will prey upon the elderly to buy expensive and unnecessary policies, and keep returning to sell them more.
- Investment scams – Perpetrators will seek thousands in investment dollars for “the next great idea”, which routinely never produces results or a return on investment.
- The “Bank Examiner” Scheme and other fraud – Elderly persons will be approached by complete strangers in a bank parking lot and asked for their assistance in “investigating” a bank employee or bank branch. They are asked to withdraw funds as part of the investigation, and their money is stolen. This investigative practice is never employed by any recognized law enforcement agency or banking regulator.
Want to know more about Elder Fraud?
You can learn more information about elder fraud by visiting the web site for the National Center on Elder Abuse at: www.elderabusecenter.org, or the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse at: www.preventelderabuse.org.