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Elder Scams and Financial Abuse

Elder abuse in the form of financial scams is growing at epidemic proportions.  The situation has become so bad that the Attorney General of North Carolina has developed a “super victim” category.  Super victims are seniors who have been preyed upon a number of times or who have lost several thousands of dollars to swindlers. As of June 2013, the largest single victim in North Carolina lost over $1 million to scams.

The elderly are easy prey.  Even though dementia or Alzheimer’s may not be formally diagnosed, cognitive capabilities are in decline and the ability of the senior to sense that something “smells fishy” is substantially reduced.  Researchers have observed that the ability to determine if something seems plausible is related to specific areas in the brain.  As these areas deteriorate, the senior becomes more susceptible to this form of crime.

Additional factors that increase the risk that the elderly will send money to a “friend”, or spend money on an unnecessary home repair are loneliness and a desire to be in control of their lives by taking action or making decisions.  Bad guys try to take advantage of seniors’ trusting nature, declining memory and financial assets.  As a class, senior citizens fall victim to scammers harder, and with greater frequency, than others.

We all need to keep up our guard against con artists.  This resource identifies many of the scams and techniques used against seniors.

Here are some guidelines that we all can follow to help reduce the risk of loss from scams:

  • Be skeptical of contractors and others offering home repair services door-to-door.
  • Guard your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers.
  • Don’t wire money to someone after depositing a check they sent you without first making sure it clears.   The check is probably bogus, and the funds you send will be yours!
  • Don’t pay up front to obtain a loan, collect a lottery winning, or for debt settlement, credit repair or foreclosure help. It’s illegal to require such a payment.
  • Beware of offers that sound too good to be true, or promise huge rewards with little or no risk.

The following content on scams falls into three main categories:

Telephone Fraud

Sweepstakes, Sweethearts and More 

Door-to-Door Home Repair Fraud

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the Office of the Attorney General of North Carolina for this valuable content.  If you think a loved one has been victimized, call the NC Attorney General office at 877-5NO-SCAM.