FRAUD AGAINST SENIORS

BY CHARLES MONTALDO

Kinds of Fraud

Against Seniors


Fraud generally involves deliberately deceiving the victim with the promise of goods, services, or other benefits that are nonexistent, unnecessary, never intended to be provided, or grossly misrepresented.


There are hundreds of frauds, but offenders generally use a small subset of these against the elderly. The frauds typically occur within a few interactions.


Prizes and Sweepstakes

These frauds generally involve informing the victim that he or she could win, or has already won, a "valuable" prize or a lot of money. The victim is required to send in money to cover taxes, shipping, or processing fees. The prize may never be delivered or, if so, is usually costume jewelry or cheap electronic equipment worth less than the money paid to retrieve it.


Investments

Because many seniors live on fixed incomes, they often want to increase the value of their estate and ensure they have sufficient funds to meet basic needs. In investment scams, offenders persuade the elderly to invest in precious gems, real estate, annuities, or stocks and bonds by promising unrealistically high rates of return. The investments often consist of fake gemstones, uninhabitable property, or shares in a nonexistent or unprofitable company.


Charity Contributions

Playing on some seniors' desire to help others, offenders solicit donations to nonexistent charities or religious organizations, often using sweepstakes or raffles to do so.


Home and Automobile Repairs

Offenders may recommend an array of fraudulent "emergency" home repairs, often requiring an advance deposit. They may subsequently fail to do any work at all, start but not finish the work, or do substandard work that requires correction. Common frauds include roof repairs, driveway resurfacing, waterproofing, and pest control. The offenders are often transient, moving among neighborhoods, cities, and even states. Dishonest auto mechanics may falsely inform customers that certain repairs are needed, or they may bill for services or repairs that were not requested or were not completed.


Loans and Mortgages

Seniors may experience cash flow shortages in the face of needed medical care or home repairs. Predatory lenders may provide loans with exorbitant interest rates, hidden fees, and repayment schedules far exceeding the elderly's means, often at the risk of their home, which has been used as collateral.


Health, Funeral, and Life Insurance

Many seniors are concerned about having the funds to pay for needed medical care or a proper burial, or to bequeath to loved ones upon death. Unscrupulous salespeople take advantage of these concerns by selling the elderly policies that duplicate existing coverage, do not provide the coverage promised, or are altogether bogus.


Health Remedies

The elderly often have health problems that require treatment. Preying on this vulnerability, offenders market a number of ineffective remedies, promising "miracle cures." Unfortunately, given this false hope, many seniors delay needed treatment, and their health deteriorates further.


Travel

Compared with younger adults, seniors often have more leisure time and are attracted to low-cost travel packages. However, many of these packages cost far more than market rates, provide substandard accommodations, or do not provide the promised services.

Article by Charles Montaldo

Charles Montaldo is a regular contributor and guide on about.com.  He writes about crime and personal security.  You can read more or his articles at http://crime.about.com/od/elderabuse/a/fraud.htm

Call your state Consumer Protection agency to check on people or businesses who offer you a deal that seems too good to be true.


Use the As You Age Quick Link below to find where to call in your state. Click Here

Call the police if you think you have been a victim of fraud, a scam or a con game.

Resources For Reporting Fraud, Scams And Con Games

As You Age provides direct links to state agencies that offer Consumer Protection services.  Find information for your state on our State Consumer Protection Services page.

The Internet Fraud Complaint Center is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center which addresses fraud committed over the Internet by providing an easy to use way of alerting the authorities.

The FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection offers timely Consumer Alerts and more than 150 consumer publications on a wide range of topics, including credit, advertising, e-commerce and the Internet and other marketplace issues.

The
SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) offers general information about how to protect yourself against investor  fraud online. Includes information on how to complain or ask questions about investor fraud. Also visit their Complaint Center for investment scams.

Findlaw links to the website of the Attorney General for each state.

State Regulators provides both addresses of state securities agencies as well as available Web sites, to assist investors with problems and questions.

Better Business Bureau - Register a complaint against a business.

Directory of Better Business Bureaus - Locate a BBB.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is a nonprofit consumer information and advocacy program. It offers consumers a unique opportunity to learn how to protect their personal privacy.

RESOURCES

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