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How to Detect Fraud Against the Elderly

A new program unveiled by AARP is making it easier for Americans to stay a step ahead of scams against senior citizens, otherwise known as elder financial abuse. This week the advocacy group has rolled out its interactive Fraud Watch Network as an effective upgrade in continuing efforts to stop financial elder abuse.

As part of their initiative, the organization has created an interactive map showing instances of frauds and alerts from authorities across all 50 states, and best of all, it enables you to directly report suspected scams in your area. The map should be particularly helpful to residents of California, who need to be on the lookout for fraudsters.

A quick look at the California section of AARP's map shows us that senior citizens in our state must contend with a wide range of scams aimed at gaining access to their pocketbooks. There's a bewildering variety of such con-jobs - they include the following:

  • The "Grandma" Scam: A caller will immediately ask, "Grandma?" to elicit the name of a grandchild in order to proceed with a disaster story that requires the senior to wire significant funds.
  • Telemarketing Fraud: Another phone-based scam to convince the elderly to buy into everything to from bogus investments (oil & gas, movies, penny stocks, etc.) give to fake charities. Con-men (and women) will also represent themselves as bank employees, insurance providers and doctors/nurses to trick senior citizens into giving over financial data for identity theft.
  • Investment Schemes: These range from Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) programs to outright Ponzi schemes usually predicated upon high-return, low-risk investments in a number of areas: oil & gas, bogus international bank certificates, real estate properties, foreign currency exchange, etc.
  • Email Scams: Deceptive emails will be sent out as "spam" by online con-men in the hope that someone will answer back. These include the infamous "Nigerian prince" ploy as well as "phishing," a technique that directs victims to a fake website to enter personal information. Malicious attachments can also be used to access your data - don't open them.
  • Repair Fraud: Another common means of stealing from often isolated seniors - a victim will be charged for yard work, car repairs, and other maintenance jobs repeatedly and at extremely high prices. This type of swindle could mean a victim is suffering from dementia.

In addition to these common financial crimes, there are numerous other methods of elder abuse that fall into the category of scams. Don't let yourself or loved ones fall victim to scammers - and to track their latest tricks, just consult AARP's new map to help keep your family and community safe.

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