Debra Boehlke, community outreach and education specialist in the Arizona Attorney General’s office, spoke to an Elder Law Day audience at Glencroft Retirement Community. She offered tips on avoiding scams and elder abuse.
She cautioned that when approached by a telemarketer who pushes you to “Buy Now” because the offer is going to expire, that urgency should be a red flag. Do not buy!
She recommended that all your online purchases be by credit card rather than debit card. “If someone steals your credit card that credit card company will credit you back,” Boehlke told us. “And you haven’t given anyone access to your checking account.”
Wiring Money is Risky Business, Boehlke told the Glencroft audience of elders.
The latest money-wiring scam targeted the elderly is called the Granny Scam. The company buys a list of phone numbers specific to an area where seniors are plentiful, such as Sun City West. They call late at night, when the seniors are expected to be sound asleep, and so half awake as they talk on the phone. A young person makes the call, and says “Grandma (grandpa), is that you?” The senior might say, “Joey, is that you?” and then the scammer says, “Yes, it’s me, Joey. We had a car accident in Mexico but they won’t let me leave until I pay this bond. Please don’t tell mom.” Then the grandparent wires the money for the bond. Of course, that money goes nowhere but into the hands of the scammer.The newest version of this scam has an older adult calling the elderly person to say she or he is an attorney in Mexico, that their grandson is there and has been arrested for a car accident, and please wire money right away.
“Arizona is number four in the country for identity theft,” Boehlke told us. “The thieves take someone’s wallet or purse but the main way is still to steal their mail. They complete a change of address and divert your mail.” Because of the prevalence of the mail diversion scam, however, the U.S. postal service is now sending a confirmation of the change to the original address.
Dumpster diving is still a popular way to perpetrate identity theft. The term simply means going through somone’s garbage. While it might mean they’re pawing through your garbage can or recycle bin outside your home, it might also mean that they’re exploring the inside of dumpsters at business locations. The thieves are hoping that nearby small business workers might not have been appropriately cautious with the corresponce to and from their customers.
Boehlke said that if you are the victim of an identity theft you should file a report with the police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) While the latter doesn’t help you resolve the matter, it does add your victimization to its database, which ultimately creates a pattern that might stop the perpetrators.
I also suggest that you sign up for LegalShield, which through Kroll not only helps protect you against all six forms of identity theft but takes over all the restoration tasks for you should your identity be stolen. See my post on identity theft and / or click on the LegalShield link in my blogroll for more information and to sign up for this excellent plan. I’m a LegalShield member and associate. It’s a wonderful program, and very very affordable.
- Lottery and sweepstakes scams – If you get a call that you have won the lottery or some sweeptstakes, it’s simple: If you did not purchase a ticket, you did NOT win. Usually, these scams are allegedly for a Canadian or Spanish lottery.
- Time Share scams – Someone calls and offer to rent out your timeshare for you, or to sell it for you. They say they have an interested buyer or renter. He or she might say, “I have a buyer who’s interested in buying this. He wants to pay $39,000, so just send me $1700 and I’ll put you together with the buyer.”
- Home repair scams are huge in Arizona, according to Beohlke. The scammer knocks on a senior’s front door and says, “I’m just doing a big job down the road and have left over tile and can redo your front patio for $x dollars.” The price sounds great. Later, not far into the job, that “tiler” would say something like “I don’t have enough grout. Give me $150 and I’ll be back in the morning.” A similar scam: “I was up on your neighbor’s roof and I could see that yours needs some work. I can do that for you.” Chances are excellent that your roof is really quite fine.
The criminal division of the Arizona Attorney General’s office goes after Ponzi schemes and affinity-based fraud . The latter refers to scammers that become active in a group to perpetrate fraud. They might become prominent members of a church, charity, or fraternal organization. After ingratiating themselves with others in the group for awhile, she or he might suggest that others get involved in her investment, something focused on furthering group beliefs and convictions.
Boehlke also talked about non-medical-caretaker fraud. She said that these caretakers need no license, come to work as elder caregivers and usually live in the home of the disabled senior. They slowly cut off that elder person’s ties with others, then start stealing from the senior’s savings or checking account.
The Task Force Against Senior Abuse (TASA), a group of three attorneys from each of several state divisions, helps adults 18 or older who are vulnerable due to mental or physical impairment. While many counties within the state are doing something similar, the scales are considerably smaller and they’re not coordinated with each other. TASA has a toll free number – 800-352-8431 – to report suspected elder abuse. Staffed by just one person, the commitment is to return the call within 48 hours. TASA receives 1200 phone calls every month, Boehlke told the senior-center audience. The email address to report suspected abuse is firstname.lastname@example.org.
She also pointed out that the federal government pays 75 percent of the cost of going after Medicaid fraud; and that if a senior you suspect is being abused is in a care facility that accepts Medicaid (even if that senior is not on Medicaid) the Attorney General’s office would have jurisdiction to investigate your complaint.
If you are approached by a scammer, or know of a scam being perpetrated on Arizona seniors, you can report the scam by calling 602-542-2124