Senior Fraud

The local law enforcement agencies intend to make seniors fully aware of the many scams often perpetuated against them by con artists. They help seniors avoid becoming victims of consumer fraud, emphasizing that the most effective way to attack this problem is through prevention.

Senior citizens in the county and across the state are easy targets for con artists. Seniors own more than half of all financial assets in America. At the same time, they are vulnerable. While people over 65 comprise 11 percent of the U.S. population, they represent roughly 30 percent of scam victims, according to a U.S. Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care. As a result, seniors lose billions of unrecoverable dollars each year to fraud.

The disproportionate victimization of older people in connection with consumer fraud is partly attributable to generation and economic factors. Seniors grew up in an era when business was done on a handshake. Further, a study by the American Association of Retired Persons has found that older people are quicker to believe promises and slower to take steps to protect their legal rights. Since seniors often save money for retirement, they often have money on hand.

Although most seniors in the county are not poor, many have saved for retirement through long years of work. In fact, Social Security is the main source of income for a majority of older residents in the county. With fixed monthly Social Security or pension checks, it is nearly impossible to replenish bank accounts emptied as a result of fraud.

There are many common practices con artists use to defraud seniors, but most are a variation of these three: telemarketing, mail and door-to-door sales. While many scams involve both mailings and telemarketing, some use all three methods. For example, many con artists will generate leads by mailing a survey to gauge interest in a product or service. Consumers who show interest, usually by returning a postcard, are then contacted by telephone or a traveling salesperson who makes the sales pitch.

Below are examples of current consumer scams you should be aware of. Study the examples and learn the warning signs of a con artist at work. This knowledge will help to thwart activities of con artists.

Please note that if you are confronted with such suspicious behavior, you should contact the Police immediately. Also, before signing a contract for home repairs, get a second opinion and take at least 24 hours to consider the purchase.

The salesperson will often emphasize that a living trust avoids inheritance tax to heirs. The membership organization will often offer prepaid legal benefits, medical benefits, and other services that are grossly exaggerated and often are not honored when needed. A warning sign to seniors regarding this type of scam is when membership offers "peace of mind benefits" that seem too good to be true. If the benefits seem too good to be true, they probably are not true. Contact an attorney to have a living trust drafted. Do not rely on door-to-door sales or accepted unsolicited offers by telephone or through the mail.

If a facility refuses to warranty the work or fails to offer a work or a satisfaction guarantee to the customer, you should steer away from that facility. Another warning signal is if the repair facility fails to get authorization to use rebuilt parts as opposed to new parts or if there is a constant delay in returning the car.

Senior citizens are an integral part of the community. Through education and awareness, seniors can be empowered to use reasonable precautions in avoiding con games and scams.