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Spotting Financial Scams Targeting Seniors



New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services estimates that fraudsters steal more than $36.5 billion from seniors in their 2016 study. Losses can go up to $1.5 billion in New York alone. These financial losses are just the tip of the iceberg, the worst part is the aftermath of such cases. Mark Lachs from the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine of Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital found that seniors that have been abused--financial in nature or not--are more prone to earlier mortality that it can be considered a “public health crisis”, thus, making it all the more important to be aware of fraudulent acts against seniors and making sure that your loved ones are just as well-informed as you are. Below are the two most common fraudulent activities targeting seniors.


Prize Scams


The most common types of scams targeting seniors are those involving prizes. Since seniors are not as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts, fraudsters try to use it to their advantage and lure seniors who make themselves available online through social media and email. However, these scammers also solicit over the phone and mail. Maybe the most well-known one is one involving sweepstakes however scams involving reputable organizations like Reader’s Digest among others are going around. Usually these scams are asking for an upfront fee before the recipient can claim their prizes. What fraudsters claim is the fee goes towards legal fees or taxes associated with the prize, when in reality, the sensitive information the target provided is their real motive. The target’s financial information will then be used for other fraudulent activities that will most likely cause trickier financial troubles.


How do you know when it’s a scam?


Legitimate organizations that raffle prizes do not ask for payments upfront to claim your prize, if it even exist. Furthermore, try to do a quick search of the information provided by the so-called organization in regards to where your money is going to. Ask for help from the police or other trusted people to help you. Trusted people within your community can surely help you. Sometimes it’s great to consider independent Senior Apartments for that reason. There should be some available in Des Moines if you are within that vicinity.


What can you do?


Keep track of expenses if possible and be remember that winning the lottery is impossible if you did not even purchase a ticket in the first place.


Emergency Scams


Another type of fraudulent activity commonly targeting seniors are emergency scams, where seniors are tricked into believing that the person they are talking to on a phone call is a long lost family member or a close friend. These scenarios are very common especially with channels like Facebook and email. Usually, the message goes along the lines of the fraudster needing funds as soon as possible for a medical expense or lawyer fees after being involved in an accident or a trip abroad. These scammers also detail how the target senior should transmit the money, whether that’s through Western Union or any other way to send money without much trace.


How do you know when it’s a scam?


It is most likely a scam if you don’t recall knowing a person with the sender’s or caller’s name. If they send an email, try to see if their email address is ambiguous or impersonal like If you try to ask for questions, the sender will try to avoid answering and will steer it to the urgency of their request.


What you can do?


While on call, never drop any names of acquaintances or relatives. Also ask relatives and close members about the sender, or better yet, try to ask for help in your community. Senior apartments like that of Calamar’s in Kansas City, MO should be able to sort this out with you.


However, while relatives can be great people to approach, be cautious and try to choose the relatives and close friends you ask for advice and confirmation. A 2014 study published on the Journal of General Internal Medicine reports that approximately 60 percent of cases that financially exploited seniors involves a family member being the perpetrator, so take care and be wary of such fraudulent activities. Reach out beyond your relatives and also ask people in your community. If you reside in one of the many 55+ Apartments, whether that’s in Kansas City, KS or New York, NY, approach a personnel for help so they can direct you the appropriate action.