Preventing elder fraud in floridaEvery year, one out of 18 American seniors is estimated to become a victim of financial fraud. This number, which was published in a 2017 report in the American Journal of Public Health, doesn’t include those who were scammed by friends or relatives.

“We’re talking about millions of older adults each year,” said the study’s lead author, David Burnes, in a July 2017 article on “What’s worse, it’s very likely an underestimate.”

According to the FBI, seniors are often targeted by con artists who assume they have assets like a paid-off home or large savings account. It’s become such an issue, The National Council of Aging says elder fraud is “the crime of the 21st century.”

To help combat this alarming trend, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr recently announced the creation of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. Starting in June 2019, organizations like the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service will work together to investigate elder fraud and prosecute those who attempt to scam America’s seniors.

As these organizations work behind the scenes to keep older Americans safe, there are steps seniors living in Florida can take today to reduce their odds of becoming a victim of elder fraud.

Know the 3 Most Popular Elder Fraud Scams

The best way Florida seniors can protect themselves from elder fraud is to be able to recognize a potential scam. Here are the most common.

#1 – Internet fraud — Online scammers assume older Americans are easy targets because they didn’t grow up using the internet. Be wary of pop-up windows claiming you have a virus on your computer. And don’t send or “verify” your personal information to an email address you don’t recognize. Scammers posing as Medicare companies or bank representatives may use these tactics to try to “phish” your Social Security number or account information.

If an email seems suspicious, call your bank or insurance broker directly. Never call the number listed in the email.

#2 – Sweepstakes scams — As they say, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you get a call or letter saying you’ve won a prize or sweepstakes, be on the alert. Especially if you’re asked to send money to pay taxes on the supposed prize. Some scammers will go as far as sending a check for the “prize money,” knowing it will bounce when deposited.

#3 – Telemarketing scams — These are by far the most common types of elder fraud schemes, according to the National Council on Aging. Common telemarketing scams include:

  • A call from a supposed old friend who is willing to split a large amount of money with you in exchange for a “good faith” deposit.
  • Someone posing as a grandchild or family member who needs you to wire money to help them pay for a car repair or overdue rent.
  • A call from someone who wants to buy your timeshare — all you have to do is pay the “processing fee.”
  • Representatives for a miracle anti-aging drug or discount prescription service.
  • Fake charities asking for contributions after a national disaster.

Protect Yourself from Elder Fraud in Florida

To protect seniors living in Florida from telemarketing scams, the Florida Attorney General’s Office recommends the following:

    • Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics. Scammers want you to buy their phony products or send money now, before you have a chance to research the company or confirm it’s actually your grandchild on the other line.
    • Never provide financial information to an unfamiliar company. If you suspect that a recent purchase was fraudulent, contact your credit card provider immediately.
    • Research the company through agencies like the Better Business Bureau, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Office of the Attorney General. A quick internet search of the company and the word “scam” can also help you decide the best way to move forward.

 Take Immediate Action If You Are the Victim of Elder Fraud

If you are concerned that you were the victim of elder fraud, it’s important not to feel ashamed or embarrassed. These con artists are professionals. They know how to get what they want.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office offers many helpful resources for elder fraud victims.

You can also report the scam to consumer agencies such as the Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA.

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