The phone scam only took 15 minutes. My dad who is 86, was fast asleep in his Boynton Beach, FL home when he received a call at 2 am from a lawyer who reported that I was in jail as I had been arrested for drunk driving and found with open alcohol in my car. The lawyer needed $5000 to post my bail and my dad, in a sleepy and alarmed stupor, mentioned my first name and asked if I was ok. The scam artist now had my name and continued to personalize the ruse to convince my dad to wire the $5000 immediately to assist me with my case. In the morning when we spoke, my dad was kindly more concerned about my mental health after the “incident” rather than posting the $5000 bail. Fortunately, we sprang to action to report the scam and trace the telephone numbers – from Toronto to Chicago to the Dominican Republic. We were luckier than most victims as we were able to access the money from Western Union only because the fraudsters had not picked up the money yet.
According to the National Coalition of Aging (NCOA) financial scams targeting seniors are so common that they are now considered “the crime of the 21st century.” They are difficult to prosecute and most likely will not be reported. The scams target seniors in all socioeconomic groups and sadly some are carried out by known relatives.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that in addition to asking for wire transfers or gift cards, an increasing number scammers are requesting seniors to mail cash, with a median individual loss of $9,000. “The Grandparent Scam” my dad fell for, like many senior scams, starts with a phone call using a common scenario. In about half of the reports of cash payments, people said the caller claimed to be in jail or other legal trouble. About a third of these reports mentioned a so-called car accident (some mentioning texting or drinking while driving). In both cases, the callers play on people’s emotions and sense of loyalty.
According to the NCOA, below are the top 10 financial scams to watch out for. Link below to the NCOA article for a brief description of each and how to protect you or a loved one from succumbing to it.
1. Medicare/health insurance scams
2. Counterfeit prescription drugs
3. Funeral & cemetery scams
4. Fraudulent anti-aging products
5. Telemarketing/phone scams
6. Internet fraud
7. Investment schemes
8. Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
9. Sweepstakes & lottery scams
10. The grandparent scam
If you suspect you or a loved one has been a scam victim, don’t be embarrassed and report the incident immediately. Best to keep phone numbers on hand for quick action such as the police, bank account information and Palm Beach County Protective Services (see below). Be sure to also file a complaint to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.
Palm Beach County Protective Services
Additional Florida Resources on Seniors and Scams
The Florida Prescription Drug Price website provides pricing information for the 50 most commonly used prescription drugs in Florida.
Cabinet Resolution Honoring Seniors vs. Crime (.pdf)
Seniors vs. Crime, Inc.:
The Seniors vs. Crime Project allows seniors to become involved in not only their own protection, but also that of their fellow citizens. Senior Sleuths volunteers work in offices known as Storefronts to provide important assistance to the crime fighting effort.
A membership organization dedicated to enhancing the experience of aging through advocacy, information, and services.
Florida Department of Elder Affairs :
Florida Dept. of Elder Affairs: Access to information about health and wellness, long-term care, community-based care, projects, and publications.
Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs :
Assisting Florida’s veterans, families and survivors to improve their health and economic well being.
The Official U.S. Government Site for People with Medicare.
The National Center on Elder Abuse :
NCEA, funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, is a gateway to resources on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.