Over 60? Watch out for fraudsters

Unless you recognize the goal, you might think that Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) is nothing to celebrate. However, the goal is to promote worldwide understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons.

It may surprise you that “elder” begins at age 60 (yes, 60). Anyone “age 60 or older” who has been a victim of financial fraud can get help at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice hotline is managed by the Office for Victims of Crime.

If you are a fraudster trying to get a 60-plus person’s attention, one way would be through the affection they feel for their grandchildren. That love can be an emotional trigger, a weak point, that fraudsters can exploit.

Just think about it: If you are a grandparent and your teenage grandchild needs financial help of just about any sort, wouldn’t you send money?

When imposters make these calls, they arrange for you to send them money, a “grandparent scam” highlighted by the Justice Department in a recent case (tinyurl.com/2p9f2wjs).

A network of at least eight individuals, “through extortion and fraud, induced elderly Americans across the United States to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars each to purportedly help their grandchild or other close family relative,” the Justice Department said in a release , citing court documents. As of late May, four people involved in the case had pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.

According to the indictment (tinyurl.com/2p9hav27), in one example a person contacted a 73-year-old woman and claimed to be her grandson, saying he had been arrested. That was followed by a call from the grandson’s “attorney,” requesting $27,000 in bail money. Subsequent legal-related requests for money from another “attorney” totaled nearly $200,000.

The defendants and their co-conspirators used various means to get the money from their victims, including in-person pickup, mail and wire transfers, according to court documents.

This is not an isolated circumstance. According to the FBI’s IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) Elder Fraud Report 2021 (tinyurl.com/bdcp6ans), more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 were victims of scams during 2021, with total losses of $1.7 billion. The average loss per victim was $18,246.

The Federal Trade Commission, through Tableau Public, has compiled a list of top fraud categories through the first quarter of 2022 (tinyurl.com/3xst5svu).

The top four categories, as reported by adults ages 70 to 79, were business imposters, government imposters, tech support scams and online shopping. Ages 60 to 69 reported the same top four categories.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee (IAC) has recommended the SEC do more to protect older investors (tinyurl.com/yck4frzz).

From my perspective in my role of promoting financial literacy, the most important IAC recommendation is to encourage “investors to ‘Ask and Check’ before they hire an investment professional.” (Full disclosure: This topic is the subject of my new book, “The Discerning Investor: Personal Portfolio Management in Retirement for Lawyers (and Their Clients),” published a few weeks ago by the American Bar Association.)

As the Justice Department pointed out in its recent release, “The best method for prevention … is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves. ”

For more examples of what can go wrong, read the Department of Justice’s list of “Red Flags of Elder Abuse,” which includes warning signs of financial exploitation (tinyurl.com/p623fryc).

As with everything having to do with finances, education is the key to making good decisions, including avoiding fraud. Write to me (readers@juliejason.com) if you would like to see this topic addressed further in this column.

Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford) and author, welcomes your questions/comments (readers@juliejason.com). Her awards include the 2021 Clarion Award, symbolizing excellence in clear, concise communications. Her latest book, a curated collection of Julie’s columns, is “Retire Securely: Insights on Money Management From an Award-Winning Financial Columnist.” To hear Julie speak, visit juliejason.com/events.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.