Connect With Kleck: A Scam Checklist For Senior Citizens - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Connect With Kleck: A Scam Checklist For Senior Citizens

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

The growing incidence of senior scams is putting many older adults in harm's way, threatening to strip them of their assets, their independence and their trust. Through his Connect With Kleck resources, Dan Kleckner has compiled a scam checklist. This checklist is meant to give seniors, and everyone else, a reference point when it comes to spotting a scam, speaking to a scammer, and ultimately, preventing that scam. You can laminate this checklist if preferred, and place it by the phone, next to the computer, or on an office desk— places where it can be easily referenced.

Cons against older adults aren't always acts of blatant theft. They can be subtle, like the retailer who over- charges an uninformed older adult or an individual who bills for a service he or she did not provide. A 2011 MetLife Study has identified three elder financial abuse strategies: crimes of occasion, crimes of desperation and crimes of predation.

Crimes of occasion, or opportunity, are incidents of financial abuse or exploitation that occur because the victim is merely in the way of what the perpetrator wants. The elder has money, assets, and the like, and an occasion presents itself for the perpetrator to avail him or herself of the resource.

Crimes of desperation are typically those in which family members or friends become so desperate for money that they will do whatever it takes to get it. Many of these family members are dependent on the senior for resources. The exploiting family member or friend comes to believe that, in return for care (actual or perceived and however little that care may be), he or she is due compensation (money, possessions, etc.).

Crimes of predation, or occupation, occur when trust is engendered specifically for the intention of financial abuse later. A relationship is built, either through a bond of trust created by developing a relationship or as a trusted professional advisor. The taking of assets is by stealth and cunning.

Financial Abuse Tactics

When seniors don't realize they are being swindled and the perpetrator knows no one is there to monitor the senior's transactions, large losses can result.

  • Telemarketing that includes Internet, phones and mail. Scammers might send out an email on bank letterhead and say there is a problem with the account and the senior needs to update information, password and account number.
  • Fake charities. There's one where you get a call from a charity saying they are supporting a reputable organization and ask you to make a donation. What they don't tell you is that they are not authorized to be fundraising for that organization. While as little as 3 percent will go to that organization, 97 percent may stay in the scammer's pocket.
  • Sweepstakes. Many times people will get an official-looking check. The account number is fraudulent, but the routing number is correct. The bank reads it as a valid check. What the sweepstakes will tell a senior is, "Cash the check, you get the bulk of the money and send $5,000 to us for processing." Fifteen days later, that check bounces and the senior is liable for that $5,000. Some even come looking like official IRS refunds with the message: "Here's your check, but you need to pay the late fees."
  • Health-care fraud. It's a growing "industry" and frequently ignored. With health care, there can be misuse of the medical card. Scammers then fabricate the need for treatment and get paid for it. For instance, scammers can find out a senior is diabetic, call him up and say, "Give us your Medicare card number, and we can send your supplies through the mail." Or they can obtain free treatment by assuming that older adult's identity.
  • Identity theft. A senior gets the call: "We need to verify your account number; give us the last four digits of your Social Security number." They can match that with the phone number, last place of employment, home address, and once they have put that package together, take a loan out on the home, open credit cards, go to big-box stores and open an account, or get a $5,000 line of credit. A senior gets the bill, and they get the goods.
  • Financial exploitation, including online investment and securities fraud. Scammers will sell seniors long-term securities or stock. They have no problems selling a woman in her 80s a certificate that doesn't mature for 20 or 25 years. They're relying on her inability to understand the fine print. Then if she needs the money, she must break the bond and pay the penalties. Scammers make a commission.

Top 5 Reasons Why Seniors are Targets

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of scammers. Some drive around neighborhoods during the day, looking for older adults working in the yard or getting their mail. Scammers make a note of addresses, return and try to sell the seniors on an unnecessary repair, such as getting their roofs fixed.

  1. Availability:  Seniors are seen as a target because they are retired and less mobile, and at home for the calls. Scam artists can troll for victims because they can call or drop by.
  2. Isolation: Seniors are often alone because families move away and sometimes have little or no interaction with loved ones. Some seniors don't have others to help review large decisions.
  3. Loneliness:  Because of their isolation, seniors' friendships often can be limited, and this can make them vulnerable to that friendly cold caller who drops by the house. Some scams are even perpetrated by seemingly trusted people who work to build new friendships with older adults and then prey on their vulnerabilities.
  4. Sickness: Chronic health issues mean that many older adults have difficulty maintaining their property. Scam artists know that. A senior may rely on outside sources for help. Unscrupulous work ers can bilk seniors out of thousands of dollars for a job that should only cost hundreds of dollars. Dementia can exacerbate the problem.
  5. Prosperity: Money is one of the most notable reasons for senior vulnerability. Scammers see them as a supply of wealth that includes homes, property, life savings and other assets.

Maybe it's time to sit down with your senior loved one and calmly talk about scammers. If you and your senior live in different cities, it's a good idea to contact other relatives, friends and neighbors who could periodically check on them.

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