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Published On: Thu, Aug 20th, 2015

The Same Scams Target Vulnerable Older People in 2015

On a regular basis, we read about companies and individuals charged with investment fraud and Ponzi-like schemes.

Recent ones include Atlanta-based Gray Financial Group, Inc. for putting pension plans in an investment scheme that did not adhere to state laws and financier Bryan Anderson from Hoover, Al. who bilked his victims of more than $3 million in an investment fraud.

According to a lawyer representing the victims in the Anderson case, the investors’ ages ranged from 36 to 93 years old. Older people are a favorite target for scammers for various reasons. They have money and assets, have good credit scores and are susceptible to promises of higher returns because they are not earning anymore.

Many elder people who are retired are also lonely, making them more vulnerable to scammers who feign concern and friendship.

What’s lamentable is, in spite of the numerous cases of senior fraud, these middle-aged and senior citizens fall prey to the same scams over and over again. The perpetrators come in all kinds: online con artists and legitimate financial advisers gone wayward. Here are the most common financial scheme rip-offs that target vulnerable older people.

1. Health and Medical Care Fraud

People get more conscious about their health as they grow older. Most health care frauds that focus on people in their 50s and above involve counterfeit medical equipment, prescription drugs, medicine that improves memory, virility and inhibits aging. Online pharmacies selling these drugs have increased and they appeal to buyers because of their lower prices.

Update on Illinois budget crisis photo/ TaxRebate.org.uk

Update on Illinois budget crisis photo/ TaxRebate.org.uk

They also escape the watchful eyes of the Food and Drug Administration. In 2007, an illegal internet drugstore made $126 million over a two-year period from sales across the 50 states; 18 people were indicted by the Grand Jury of San Diego for operating the online pharmacy.

To avoid being similarly victimized, buy only from trusted sellers. If online sellers have cheaper prices, look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) seal of approval. It comes from the Association of Boards of Pharmacy in the US.

2. Romance Fraud

Online dating puts a lot of older people at risk for getting scammed out of their bank accounts. These persons may have lost their partners through divorce or death and their children have their own families, leaving them alone, lonely and longing for companionship or a romantic relationship. Men and women alike have become victims, with men slightly more than women. Date scammers usually initiate the chat, through online dating sites, social media or messaging apps. They play on the emotions of lonely old people who fall for their professions of love. Soon, these con artists are asking for money using all sorts of alibis. Otherwise smart people end up selling properties, applying for loans and emptying their banks before realizing that they’ve been had.

Most dating fraud come from men in Nigeria and Ghana, or countries that have large West African populations. They are known as 419 or the Yahoo Boys, because they mostly use free Yahoo email accounts. They snitch pictures from the web and social media sites, and create fake profiles, usually posing as military men or engineers.

When an online date starts asking for money, for whatever reason, see it immediately as a red flag. Do a reverse search of pictures of an internet date, chat live with a webcam to get a view of the real person, and never send even a small amount of cash because that’s how dating scams usually start.

3. Ponzi Schemes

Who hasn’t heard of the Ponzi scam? Yet, countless people eager for quick and high returns on their money still fall for this age-old trick. Seniors who have received their retirement pay in lump sums are often suckers for this scam that pays returns using money from new investors. The schemer will claim to invest the money in allegedly legitimate companies while trying to lure in more people and their funds. The scheme will eventually collapse when there are no more investors coming in or when the participants simultaneously ask to cash out.

Ponzi schemes may pass off as legitimate, especially if the person already owns a financing firm. Check the license and rely on your gut instinct. If what is offered is too good to be true, it almost always is.

4. Employment Fraud

Many retirees still feel they are capable of working, and rightly so, because a lot of older people are in good physical and mental health to remain in the workforce. But companies prefer younger employees. However, the trend in work-from-home have given seniors and retirees opportunities to use their skills, earn money and get the mental stimulation that their previous work gave them. Scammers know this, and present job openings that promise unbelievably lucrative pay by working from home, with no age limit. The catch is, there is a payment for registration or fees for processing of applications, etc. Once the money is sent, and after rendering a big volume of work, the “employer” disappears.

The lesser evil of employment fraud, if it can be called that, is only a small amount of money is involved. The victim may have rendered work that is unpaid but the duplicity is not large-scale. Employment fraud may also be a way to extract sensitive personal information about the victim in the guise of filling up the application form, like the bank account number or credit card information for payment of salary. The data is then used in identity theft.

5. Charities Fraud

Americans have been conditioned to donate to charities. Seniors are more generous, seeing donations as a way to give back to a society that has been good to them. Alas, unscrupulous scammers know this only too well and take advantage of older people to solicit funds for a specific charity. Real disasters are also exploited by rip-off artists who put up all kinds of charities online or knock door-to-door asking for donations for the victims of a hurricane, earthquake, storm or some man-made tragedy.

Before forking out money for a charity donation, check out the organization first for its legitimacy. Some fraudulent clubs use names that are very similar to well-known and respected charities, so donors will miss the slight difference. If donating online, check the exact name and physical address and call the organization’s telephone number if possible. There are websites that authentic charitable institutions. Do not issue cheques in an individual’s name; always write it in the charity’s name. and don’t give in to high-pressure tactics. Real charities do not demand, they appeal.

Everyone gets old but it doesn’t have to be a tragic state in life. Retain a circle of trusted friends, volunteer in the community and indulge in your interests and hobbies. Trust people but be mindful where money is concerned. It’s undeniable that seniors are one of the favorite targets of con artists, sharks and impostors. Double-check your financial plans and activities to make sure you don’t become a victim.

Guest Author: Lolita Di

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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  1. Processing Fee For In Divorce Online | Fast Barbara A King says:

    […] The Same Scams Target Vulnerable Older People in 2015 – The perpetrators come in all kinds: online con artists and legitimate financial advisers … The catch is, there is a payment for registration or fees for processing of applications, etc. Once the money is sent, and after … […]

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