Financial scammers target thousands of elderly people every year, and each year, their methods get more and more creative. Older people are particularly susceptible to fraud, partially because they are at a vulnerable age and place in their lives and partially because their financial assets such as social security payouts and retirement savings accounts make them ripe targets.
Scammers will use any means available to them to get an older victim to disclose sensitive information such as account numbers, safe combinations, the location of valuables in storage or in their homes, and anything else they can get their hands on, literally or figuratively, through online hacking. Popular schemes include mail fraud, phone scams and even in-person fraudulent set-ups.
One of the top ways to lure unsuspecting older people into listening to and falling for a fraudulent scheme is to offer a free lunch. Senior seminars are great places for financial scammers to draw in their next pool of victims, offering them a luncheon and some “useful” tips for living frugally or wisely as they age. These seminars are usually geared towards senior citizens who want to get out for an afternoon, and promote topics like financial planning, setting up a will, estate, or other long-term distribution of assets and other money-handling information.
At a senior seminar, participants will typically be asked to fill out a questionnaire in the beginning, allegedly to help them narrow down what kind of spender or saver they are or what kind of financial status they currently hold. However, financial elder abuse lawyers say that this questionnaire is actually used to provide the scammer with information such as names, ages, addresses, contact information and financial data.
The questionnaire will typically ask what kind of accounts the participants have and will ask them to list any other assets in their names. This way, the scammer can collect information on whom to target—those with IRAs, mutual funds, checking accounts and other liquid assets that can be siphoned or stolen. In some cases, this is the goal of the scam to gain financial information for later use.
In other cases, the questionnaire is step one of two and is followed by a sales presentation. The presentation’s goal is to inspire fear of financial insecurity or instability in the listeners and encourage them to act quickly to save their money and assets. A typical presentation will either provide troubling “facts” and information about accounts being in jeopardy, or present a financial product “guaranteed” to protect an investor’s money and even earn profits.
The scammers will then try to coerce their listeners to move their assets from one place to another, sign up for investment holdings in the presented product or purchase annuities and retirement policies.
If you are attending a senior seminar, be aware of what may be going on. There is no reason to provide any sensitive information such as your account numbers, online banking records, financial statements, balances, property owned or your Social Security number. You also do not need to disclose your contact information. You should always be aware of your surroundings and safeguard your personal information to protect against fraud or schemes.
At the Evans Law Firm, Inc., we help clients recover from financial scams and fraud that may leave them in dire straits. For a free consultation, contact a California financial elder abuse attorney today.