Vail Daily column: Frauds against the elderly
Unfortunately, if there is an opportunity to scam someone, it most likely is happening. Yet why does it seem to be the elderly in our who country bear the brunt of such frauds against humanity? Well, if you were to spend just a few moments to consider the plight of our elderly population, the “why” becomes easily understood. Finding solutions, however, tends to be more difficult.
Our elderly live in a different world than most of the rest of the population: Most have fixed incomes resulting in the ever present need to increase this income in the face of annual inflation and price increases. They also have accumulated major assets to protect their futures, i.e., homes free and clear of mortgage debt, retirement assets and personal assets. These monies offer those committing fraud easy targets on which to focus.
There are many people who know how best to take advantage of this population and who often present themselves as trusting of anyone who can speak their language. For example, telemarketers know how to make an offer seem as if it is the only opportunity that the elderly homeowner may get to refurbish their home by replacing every window with a “once in a life-time deal”. Telemarketers know the elderly are home more frequently than those younger Americans, so calls to that population are easier to make during the day.
Further, the telephone is not the only method that can be used by those committing fraud against the elderly. Door-to-door sales is not dead — regrettably, it is just focused more specifically on our elderly.
FRIENDS, FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS
A few years ago, MetLife conducted a study about elder abuse. The information found within this study is shocking and anyone with elderly love ones should take note. Sadly, the report indicated that fraud committed by family, friends and neighbors was second to fraud committed by strangers.
It was found that women were nearly twice as likely as men to be victims of elder financial abuse. Thinking that your loved ones are too savvy and smart to be included in the estimated $2.9 billion of financial loss to victims identified in this study would be naive.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR LOVED ONES
How do we help keep our loved ones and our care recipients from succumbing to fraud? Below are some ideas that seem to be universal in their approach:
• Don’t give out personal information to anyone unless you personally know the person or business.
• Shred mail and other documents before placing in the trash.
• Keep important and confidential documents in safe places (i.e., safe deposit boxes, safes, etc.).
• Just say “no” to telemarketers.
• Keep doors locked at all times.
• Install alarm systems with intercoms connected to the front door, etc. This may assist in keeping the door-to-door sales people at bay.
• Always ask for any offer in some type of written form.
• Be aware of your “do-not-call” rights. Call either 888-382-1222 or go to http://www.donotcall.gov to report violators.
REPORT SCAMS TO THE POLICE
Staying on top of scams and thieves is an endless and very difficult task, even for law enforcement authorities. However, by embracing the simple techniques listed above (and others too numerous to mention in this piece), non-law enforcement members of our community can effectively fight back against crime against the elderly.
Communicating with your local police department about crimes against the elderly that may be occurring in your community is a good way to stay apprised of fraudulent activity. In addition, informing your local police department of an incident that has happened to you or others you know about within your community may assist in keeping others from experiencing harm.
Too often, financial fraud against the elderly is unreported. If you have even the slightest inkling that an impropriety may be occurring or that a friend or family member may be susceptible, take action. You’re best to err on the side of caution.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.