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Elder Fraud in Our World: An Unfortunate Thing to Watch Out For

By: Integrity Home Care + Hospice

The Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force (TEFSF)—sounds like the title of a fictional book on Chuck Norris’ nightstand, right?  The unfortunate reality is that it’s a real thing, and it’s definitely needed. TEFSF was created in June 2019 by the DOJ, to “bring together the expertise and resources of our prosecutors, federal and international law enforcement partners, and other government agencies to better target, investigate, and prosecute criminals abroad who prey on the elderly at home.” 

Even with this watchdog group in action, elder fraud continues to be on the rise, and yes—even in our own local communities. 

Integrity Home Care is passionate about the protection and safety of our elderly community, which is why bringing awareness to this topic is so important to us. The more details we know about scams currently making the rounds, the more we can teach our patients and their families how to recognize when they are happening—before they happen. 

Frequently Occurring Scams

To assist with data collection and public awareness on this topic, the FBI has created several categories of the most frequently occurring scams and encourages Americans to refer to these categories’ specific names when describing an incident.  

And if you’re caregiver who provides in-home care services to a member of the elderly population—by becoming familiar with potential scam set-ups, you have a chance to be their very own Elder Fraud Strike Force!

  • Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
  • Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
  • Grandparent scam: Criminals pose as a relative—usually a child or grandchild—claiming to be in immediate financial need.
  • Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
  • Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee.”
  • Home repair scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
  • TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.

According to the FBI, the criminals involved in these scams target our senior population because they are typically more trusting, financially solvent, less tech-savvy, and afraid to speak up due to fear of public embarrassment. And in the worst cases, elder fraud scams are successful due to the presence of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s in the victim’s life.  

In every way, our senior population is being taken advantage of and exploited by these criminals—but just financially speaking, elder fraud accounts for damages exceeding three billion dollars each year! 

What Some of Us Have Experienced

That’s why we are proud to help bring awareness to this growing issue by sharing the following personal experiences from our own Integrity Home Care family:

The ‘Just Say YES’ Phone Scam 

  • How it happened: Over the phone. The caller (scammer) pretended as though the connection was fuzzy, and asked repeatedly, “can you hear me?”  When the target replied “Yes,” the damage had been done. 
  • What’s the scam? The criminal recorded the call, and then attempt to use the “yes” as a voice signature to authorize unwanted charges in the victim’s name. 

Computer Repair/Tech Support Scam

  • How it happened: Over the computer. The target of this scam received a pop-up stating that her computer had become infected with a virus and that she needed to contact a repair company via a provided phone number right away. When the unassuming victim contacted the ‘repair company’ to solicit their help, she was cheerfully greeted and ‘helped’ for over an hour. The scammer claimed to clean up the computer and help prevent this in the future by installing a VPN. 
  • What’s the scam? The victim was asked to give the criminal their credit card information over the phone and was subsequently charged several hundred dollars for ‘repairs’ that did not occur.  

Lottery Scam

  • How it happened: Over the phone— multiple calls per day, for months at a time.
  • What’s the scam? The caller told the victim that she had won a million dollars and needed to pay taxes to claim the prize. The criminal then continued to harass, leaving multiple voicemails checking on the past due ‘tax payment.’  Each message included a personal detail to further intimidate the victim— information about her pets, church, children, etc. was used to convince her that this was a legitimate caller. The situation was further exacerbated by the victim’s recently developed Alzheimer’s, which added to her distress and confusion throughout the incident. In the end, this scam cost the victim over 250k. 

Police Officer Impersonation Scam

  • How it happened: Over the phone. The target was called by a man impersonating a police officer. He told her that she had outstanding warrants in a state that she lived in many years prior, and if she didn’t pay to get rid of them, she would go to jail. 
  • What’s the scam? He instructed her to go to Lowe’s and purchase several gift cards multiple times, then requiring her to read the numbers to him over the phone. She lost $4,500 before a Lowe’s employee noticed her strange behavior and asked what was going on. Once the employee heard her story, he told her it was a scam, and helped her report it to the local police station right away. 

Close Calls

  • How it happened: Via phone call. Callers left recordings suggesting that the target’s bank account was going to be closed, or that her Social Security Account had already been closed, and that she needed to press “#” for help.
  • Fortunately, the intended victim knew that her bank would never call with a recording, and she had never received a phone call from the Social Security Administration before, so she was able to avoid the scam by simply hanging up.

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones 

Recognizing the signs of a scam artist and reporting anything suspicious to your local authorities are two of your best lines of defense against elder fraud in our local communities.  Additionally, the FBI recommends resisting the urge to act impulsively—if you feel like you are being rushed into giving personal or financial information to an unknown caller, that’s a good enough reason to slow down, get more information, and hang up (or log off).  

Never give any personal identifiable information to unverified individuals or businesses and be sure to keep your loved one’s computers up to date with the latest and most reputable anti-virus software. If you feel like you or a family member has been the target of a potential scam, it can also be helpful to perform a quick search online for incidents like it—chances are, others have reported similar occurrences and you’ll have a better idea whether your intuition was correct (it usually is!)

Integrity Is Here for You

Integrity Home Care is dedicated to keeping our older loved ones safe in their homes, for as long as possible—and this includes protecting them from dangerous scam artists who prey on their vulnerability for financial gain.  We are always stronger together, and that’s why we’ll always be: Here with you. There for you. All along the way.

Give us a call or send us a message if you’d like to speak to one of our team members about the in-home care services we provide and whether we would be a great fit for each other! 

Elderly Man Using a Computer