Schemes Targeting Elderly Not Limited to Tax-Related Scams
While tax-related fraud schemes aimed at seniors have been in the news, financial schemes targeting the elderly aren’t restricted to those involving Internal Revenue Service impersonation calls or tax refund fraud.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint alleging multiple international mail fraud schemes that have defrauded elderly and vulnerable U.S. victims out of tens of millions of dollars. According to the complaint, U.S. residents received fraudulent direct mail solicitations that falsely claimed that individual victims had won, or would soon win cash, prizes or other bonus. The solicitations appeared to be personalized even though they were really form letters mailed to hundreds of thousands of potential victims.
The solicitations typically matched one of three types:
- False claims that the victim is the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes and will receive winnings if they pay a processing fee;
- False claims that the victim has won a large sum of money and should purchase a “guaranteed,” “secret” method for winning lotteries and other games of chance; or
- Solicitations allegedly from a psychic who has “seen” the victim winning large sums of money through the lottery or other contest which will only happen if with the purchase of various supernatural and divinatory objects or services.
In some instances, the solicitations claim that the recipient has already been confirmed the winner of a prize in bold, prominent lettering, but then explain in smaller text that the prize drawing has not yet taken place or that there is no prize drawing. Potential prizes touted were said to be in excess of $20,000 and included cash, checks, amounts held in trust, and cars. DOJ estimates that more than half a million victims responded, netting the defendants $18 million.
Elder Abuse from Children – the Opioid Crisis
Reports of suspected elder abuse in Massachusetts have surged over the past five years, according to state figures — a troubling increase that law enforcement and elder advocates say is fueled in part by the opioid crisis and addicted adult children exploiting parents and other relatives. Since 2011, abuse reports have climbed 37 percent, with more than 1,000 additional cases reported each of the past five years to protective services offices. The Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the agency that tracks and investigates abuse, recorded nearly 25,000 cases last year, but the state’s numbers do not delineate how many involved opioids. More adult children addicted to opioids are moving back in with their elderly parents, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said. Retired parents, with their monthly Social Security and pension checks, become easy targets for financial, physical, and emotional abuse.
Protecting the Elderly from Fraud
Want to protect your elderly loved one? While people certainly have the right to choose where they spend their money, we don’t want our loved ones prayed upon and taken advantage of. Keep in close contact with your loved one. Watch for any changes in spending or behaviors. Review mail received for any solicitations that are seeking donations of payments. If irregularities are noted, inquire into spending habits. If possible, review banking and financial records.
Consider executing a Durable General Power of Attorney to address any competency issues. A fully considered and executed estate plan will often minimize the chance that the Elderly will be targeted by fraudulent activity.