I would suspect that everyone reading this column today has either been a victim of fraud or knows a person who has been a victim. As technology continues to evolve so does the creativity of the 21st century criminal mind and in many cases the ease in which they are able to swindle their victim is amazing.
Each year the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes the top senior scams from reports around the country. What is so disheartening is that over the last several years I’ve written numerous columns about senior scams and every year the same ones reappear in the top spots. I’ve had several clients call me this year and say those dreaded words, “Fred, I’ve been scammed”. Sadly, there was no recourse for any of them as the scammers had already cashed the checks and vanished before they even realized they were victims of a fraud.
Here are the top six scams for 2012:
1. Telemarketing via Internet, phones and mail. Scammers might send out email on bank letterhead that says there is a problem with the account and asks the senior to update information, password and number.
2. Fake charities. This type of scam may involve a call from a charity that tells you they are supporting a reputable organization and asks you to make a donation. What they don’t tell you is that they are not authorized to be fundraising for that organization. While as little as 3 percent of your donation may go to that organization, 97 percent may stay in their pocket.
3. Sweepstakes. Many times people will get an official-looking check in the mail. The account number is fraudulent, but the routing number is correct so the bank reads it as a valid check. What the sweepstakes will tell you are, “Cash the check, you get the bulk of the money and send $5,000 to us for processing.” Fifteen days later, that check bounces and the senior is liable for that $5,000. Some even come looking like official IRS or Canada Revenue Agency refunds.