Elder Abuse is on the Rise
There has been a recent uptick in financial elder abuse cases in Southeast Wisconsin. These are difficult cases to solve, and it's often tough to identify the crooks, or retrieve the funds. So please continue to be vigilant and keep an eye out for signs of elder abuse. We also have a video at the end of this article that can provide you with 3 additional helpful tips to help protect your identity and accounts.
What to look for:
- Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the older adult.
- The inclusion of additional names on an older adult’s bank signature card.
- Unauthorized withdrawal of the older adult’s funds using their ATM card.
- Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions.
- Provision of substandard care or bills left unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources.
- Discovery of a forged signature for financial transactions or for the titles of the older adult’s possessions.
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an older adult’s property or possessions.
- Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family.
- The provision of services that are not necessary.
- An older adult’s report of financial exploitation.
Why do financial scammers target seniors?
Below is an excerpt of an article published by the National Council on Aging.
Fraudsters and con artists tend to go after older adults because they believe this population has plenty of money in the bank. But it’s not just wealthy older Americans who are targeted. Older adults with low income are also at risk for fraud.
Financial scams often go unreported or can be tough to prosecute, so they’re viewed as a “low-risk” crime. However, they're devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a vulnerable position, with limited ability to recover their losses.
1. Government Impersonation Scams
In government impersonation scams (also known as government imposter scams), scammers call unsuspecting older adults and pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security Administration, or Medicare. They may say the victim has unpaid taxes and threaten arrest or deportation if they don’t pay up immediately. Or they may say Social Security or Medicare benefits will be cut off if the victim doesn’t provide personal identifying information. This information can then be used to commit identity theft.
Government imposters may demand specific forms of payment, such as a prepaid debit card, cash, or wire transfer. Using special technology, they often “spoof” the actual phone number of a government agency or call from the same zip code (202 for Washington, D.C., for example). This can trick some people into thinking the caller is from a valid source.
2. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
The sweepstakes scam is one many people are familiar with. Here, scammers call an older adult to tell them they've won a lottery or prize of some kind. If they want to claim their winnings, the older adult must send money, cash, or gift cards up front—sometimes thousands of dollars' worth—to cover supposed taxes and processing fees. Scammers may impersonate well-known sweepstakes organizations (like Publishers Clearing House) to build trust among their victims. Of course, no prize is ever delivered. Sometimes, fraudsters are able to convince the older adult to send even more money by telling them their winnings will arrive soon. Many continue to call their victims for months and even years after defrauding them out of an initial sum of money.