Unfortunately, the older we get, the more likely we are to be targeted by cruel financial scams. This is basically because criminal predators go after the most vulnerable, those more likely to be taken in by their fraudulent schemes. There are many reasons that seniors are easier to victimize, none of them related to lack of intelligence or foolishness. If you feel that you or your parents or grandparents may be targets, this article is designed to help all of you wise up and feel safer.
What makes older people more susceptible to scams?
While plenty of young and middle-aged individuals are taken advantage of by scammers, seniors are often targeted because the older you are, the more likely you are to:
- Be retired and at home and available for phone calls, emails, and texts
- Lack knowledge of modern technology
- Less busy and more interested in what a stranger has to say
- More eager to save or win money if you’re living on a fixed income
- Be confused by late-night calls or messages
There are many ways of protecting yourself or your elderly relative not only from losing large amounts of money, but from being embarrassed or even terrified by thugs who masquerade as insurance agents, investment bankers, police officers, and even clergy. One of the most important things you can do is to connect your family to a trustworthy estate planner/elder law attorney who knows how to protect your assets.
A skilled Surprenant & Beneski attorney will keep your funds protected by putting them in various trusts, protective business structures (e.g. LLCs), foundations, and annuities that will make them unavailable to those who try their best to steal assets. Consulting with one of our knowledgeable lawyers will also benefit you by protecting your estate from creditors, potential lawsuits, and excessive taxes.
What are some of the most common scams that target seniors?
Many years ago, people were advised to avoid buying “snake oil,” in other words resisting products that could “grow hair, improve complexions, and cure hernias,” but at least some of
today’s scammers are more sophisticated. Most often, they play on greed or fear.
What is most important to learn about not being taken in by scam artists is to remember they will sink unbelievably low to get your money. Scam artists frequently weaponize the phone or internet to:
- Tell you that you have won a lottery but will have to pay a fee to receive the proceeds.
- Warn you that your computer is in danger of crashing if you do not let them “fix it.”
- Tell you that your grandchild has been arrested and requires immediate cash bail. Often they will have a young person say something quickly, sounding panicked, and you will not be sure if it is your grandchild or not.
- Ask if you can hear them, then record your “Yes” answer to be utilized later to authorize the use of your credit card.
- Tell you that they are the IRS and that you will be jailed for back taxes if you don’t fork over a certain amount immediately.
- Tell you that your credit card bill has not been paid for 2 months and there will be a lawsuit if you don’t settle with them by cashier’s check or money order by the next business day.
Whatever the scam artist tells you, you can be sure that it will sound as if urgent action needs to be taken, whether to collect your winnings or to save yourself or your loved one. These calls to arms will come when you’re most vulnerable — usually late at night.
The easiest means of protecting yourself is not to respond to a phone call, email, or text that comes from someone whose number or address you don’t recognize — even if the name is someone you know (since their email may have been hacked). Most of all, never let embarrassment keep you from reporting a scam attack. At Surprenant & Beneski, we hear endless stories of similarly disturbing scams. Whatever you do, whether you or your loved one was fooled — don’t blame the victim.
©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.