WebsiteCompass 3 Elder financial abuse is the theft or misuse of an older person’s money, which is bad enough. What makes it extra insidious is that the perpetrators take advantage of the vulnerabilities of seniors and may even be a family member or caretaker of the victim. Understanding the Targets and Strategies Why Seniors Seniors are targeted because criminals know that, after saving for retirement their entire lives, they often have a good amount of money in the bank. Additionally, some elderly people may not fully understand how technology works, have cognitive disorders, or be lonely and desperately want someone to pay attention to them. These factors add up to vulnerabilities that fraudsters can exploit for their own financial gain. Increasing Frequency Unfortunately, this behavior has been occurring with much greater frequency since 2020. That timing is no coincidence; the rise corresponds with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced seniors, along with everyone else, to isolate and rely more heavily on technology. Numerous Strategies This type of fraud can take place in numerous ways. Here are some examples: • In person – An in-home helper steals money or information directly from the senior’s wallet or purse. • Over the phone – Someone calls for seemingly legitimate reasons and asks for personal data such as an account number. • Through the mail – A letter is sent informing the recipient that they’ve won a contest or sweepstakes (which is fake) and asking for money for taxes or fees. • Via email – The sender instructs the recipient to visit a website or download an attached file, which leads to malware and identity theft. Capitalizing on Chaos Scammers attack even more vigorously when something unusual is happening, such as during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic or following a natural disaster. For example, some scammers tried to get seniors (and others) to buy a “COVID cure”—for a high price, of course. Justice Department Takes Action In early October 2022, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) announced it would accelerate its efforts to address financial fraud crimes against older Americans. In an interview with AARP, Attorney General Merrick Garland called these crimes “despicable.” The move includes adding 14 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to the DOJ’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. In addition to the expanded Strike Force, the DOJ has recently served justice to some of these criminals. For example, an investment adviser who stole over $9.3 million was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison. In another instance, members of a criminal ring that ran a widespread grandparent scam were arrested. According to the AARP, “Another DOJ goal is to return money to elder fraud victims.” As part of prosecution agreements, fraud perpetrators are among the sources for this money, paying tens of millions of dollars to a victim compensation fund. Source: https://www.aarp.org/money/scamsfraud/info-2022/elder-fraud-strike-force.html QUICK TIP: Make your social media accounts private so only friends can see your information.