This fall, our team attended a seminar focused on Elder Abuse and Reporting. Besides learning about the laws, regulations and definitions associated with elder abuse, we were updated on common elder abuse and consumer scams. Due to accessibility during business hours, possibility of greater discretionary income, and vulnerability to confusion, memory loss, and isolation, fraudsters tend to target the older population. Here are some of the most prolific scams of the moment.
The Imposter Scam
This is when the victim is contacted by someone impersonating a friend or relative and asked to send money. Several months ago, we had a client share their experience with this scam. She was contacted by her “grandson” who was in a Florida jail and needed money for bail. The phone connection was poor, making it difficult for grandma to recognize the “grandson’s” voice. The caller knew some details about our client (probably through an internet search) and provided them in an effort to convince her. Our client responded as many grandmas would – she wired the requested $500 from her bank account. She was not comfortable doing this but it was her “grandson.” The next day she got a second phone call requesting an additional $1,000. That is when she realized her mistake. Although she did not get the $500 back, she did not wire the additional $1,000
The Tech Support Scam
On our advisory team, two of our own family members have fallen for this scam – one was age 56 and the other age 22 when it happened. This is when the victim is contacted by “Tech Support” informing them that a virus has been detected on their computer. At a price, they will log in remotely to remove the virus and do a complete scan of the computer. Keep in mind that once you allow someone to log in remotely, they have access to the information on your hard drive – passwords, tax returns, financial statements, etc. Once the computer has been “fixed,” some scammers offer to provide ongoing monitoring and maintenance for a small annual fee automatically charged to the victim’s credit or debit card.
The Charitable Solicitation Scam
This scam can come in the form of telemarketing or direct mail. One of the more subtle versions of this scam is a reminder mailing from the “charity,” informing the victim that they have not yet fulfilled a commitment they made earlier in the year (which they never did). Often, the dollar amount is small, making it easier for the victim to just send the money rather than research the commitment. Sometimes the charities are fraudulent. Other times they are real, but only a small portion of the donation makes it to the cause with the remainder going to administration of the charity (a.k.a. “the scammer’s pockets”).
The Oregon Department of Justice has a website (www.oregonconsumer.gov) that provides consumer protection information and alerts to the public. You may want to take a moment to visit the site and see what resources are available.