Sunshine is often the best disinfectant. That couldn’t be more true as we launched our fourth season of the Money Series last week. For our season opener, I am proud to have revisited a topic that I believe is one of the most important we’ve ever covered; the prevention of financial scams perpetrated against senior citizens.
The best defense against this scourge is education and awareness. Too often financial scams go unreported due to embarrassment and fear. According to some studies, only one out of 44 cases of elder financial exploitation get reported. In other words, what we read in the paper is just the tip of an iceberg.
Despite the unreported nature of these crimes, I can say with total confidence that our public officials have upped their game since the Money Series first presented on the topic back in 2016.
Today, senior organizations and government departments have marshaled significant resources to both train fraud prevention specialists and encourage the reporting of these crimes. For example, AARP launched their Fraud Watch Network with a hotline at (877) 908-3360. Their hotline is staffed by volunteers who work with victims to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that supports further prevention efforts.
Right here in our backyard, Grand Traverse County’s efforts are also commendable. They have a scam alert system that broadcasts warnings, by phone and by email, to our region’s seniors and caregivers. Signing up for the alert is easy, just visit GrandTraverse.org and follow the link to the No Scam Zone.
For our kick-off at the Money Series, we covered five of the most common scams to avoid. I’ll highlight one of them here and invite you to watch the full video replay posted on MoneySeries.org.
The “family emergency” scam is near and dear to my heart as it affected my wife’s grandmother a few years ago. This scam preys off of an inherent desire of many seniors to help those in need. It usually begins with an urgent call from an imposter, often posing as a grandchild, who is supposedly in need of help after an accident or an arrest. The scammer’s aim is always to get your money, and do it quick!
The surefire way to prevent financial fraud targeting seniors is to keep our lines of communication wide open. This is a perfect example of it taking a village to care for one another. By encouraging our area’s growing population of seniors to develop and maintain a vibrant connection to our community, we can not only prevent financial abuse but also meet a whole host of other vital needs.
Now, I cannot think of a more compelling reason to support the effort to replace our inadequate Senior Center in Traverse City with an intentionally-designed facility right in the heart of our community. Our Senior Center network is a public asset like none other and their effort for a new building sincerely deserves our county-wide, public support.