In the last three weeks, we discussed the telemarketing and internet scams focused on senior citizens. To learn more about those topics, you can visit: http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-one, http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-two and http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-three. Today, we begin the final part in our four (4) part series on elderly financial scams. In this article, we’ll be discussing mail fraud, home repair fraud and professional fraud.
Caregivers can help monitor loved ones’ mail for potential mail fraud. Stacks of unsolicited mail with various offers for money or prizes is a quick indicator that your loved one is being targeted for a scam. Also, if you notice packages of cheap costume jewelry or other “gifts” arriving by mail to your loved one, inquire about the source of the items and the circumstances leading to their receipt.
If your loved one has provided confidential personal data, be watchful for unauthorized transactions in their financial accounts and alert their banker to the situation. Review their checkbook entries and look for unusually large withdrawals or checks written to unfamiliar companies. Credit card statements should be checked for any unauthorized charges. It’s also advisable to examine your loved one’s credit rating to
check for any new lines of credit that have been opened in his/her name. You are allowed by law to check your credit rating one time a year without charge. Visit: Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services, Experian.com/help, and TransUnion.com/credit-help to analyze your credit report. If you believe your loved one’s identity may have been stolen, you may file a Fraud Alert with one of these three (3) credit-reporting services. This alert will make it more difficult for criminals to use your loved one’s identity for credit in the future. You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft site at https://www.identitytheft.gov/#what-to-do-right-away.
If you suspect mail fraud, contact the Postal Inspection Service at www.usps.com/ncsc/locators/find-is.html and type in your zip code to locate an office near you.
HOME REPAIR FRAUD:
Another common scheme often perpetrated against seniors is for home repairs. The home repair scammer will approach the homeowner offering to do home repairs, often at a “discount” since he’s already working in the area. For example, the scammer will say he has been re-roofing a neighbor’s house and while up on that roof noticed the senior’s home has loose shingles. He may even climb up on the roof and pull off some perfectly good shingles as “proof.” The scammer under these situations will usually request payment prior to any work being done. This should raise an alarm! Never pay for repairs until the work is complete and to the homeowner’s satisfaction. If paid in advance, some of these scammers will make a lot of noise pretending to fix the house, leave for lunch and never come back. If you feel the home repair work is necessary, obtain a WRITTEN bid required to complete the work and their full contact information. If the contractor is legitimate you should be able to research his/her company, read reviews and check out their standing with the Better Business Bureau. If you feel pressured to make a quick decision, this is yet another indicator of an unethical contractor.
Scammers have been known to pose as utility workers, saying they need to check the phone or electrical line inside the house. Once inside, they steal personal information or valuables, and sometimes become physically violent. They may be dressed in a uniform and look official. If you have not pre-arranged for a service call by a company of your choice, do not allow a worker to enter your home. Ask for their name and the name of the company they represent. Lock the door, look up the company telephone number then place a call to them asking whether the worker at your door is authorized to make a service call at your home. If they cannot confirm the worker or the scheduled service, immediately call the police and report the attempted fraud. Do not confront the worker yourself. Also, no matter how polite an individual may seem, do not allow anyone you do not know into your home to use your restroom, borrow your telephone or get a drink of water. You are not being rude—you are being shrewd!
Be aware that not all professionals serving the elderly population are ethical. While the vast majority of individuals are honest and well intentioned, you should still be wary of those overselling legal services, medical procedures, insurance policies, funeral home services, and investments. It is wise to bring a trusted friend or family member with you when you are making decisions in these areas to help you determine if your money is being spent or invested wisely for your unique situation. Do not be embarrassed to ask for help, seek a second opinion, or ask for referrals from educated friends and family. A good, professional adviser will welcome questions and will be patient with you as you make your decisions.
This concludes our elderly financial scam series. If you feel you have been a victim of a fraud, contact your local police for assistance. You should also check out the U.S. Department of Justice, Elder Justice Initiative for elderly financial abuse at https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/roadmap.
If you have questions, contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on estate planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, and related matters.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Davis & McCann, P. A.,