Q:  What do seniors need to know to protect themselves from fraud?

A:  Older adults are targeted by scammers because they are believed to have a lot of money in the bank. They also are at a greater risk of cognitive decline, which may impair their judgement and make them more susceptible to falling for scams.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), frauds targeting older adults are on the rise. In fact, in 2021 there were a reported 92,371 older victims of fraud resulting in $1.7 billion in losses. This was a 74% increase in losses compared to 2020. Clearly, this is a huge issue and we need to do as much as possible to educate our community on how to protect themselves and their assets.

In Ventura County there is a new Elder Legal seminar series that will be providing community education on a variety of important legal issues related to older adults. Brought to you locally by Senior Concerns and the Camarillo Health Care District, this project was supported by Older Adult Recovery and Resilience (OARR) Funding for legal services, from the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging and the California Department on Aging.

The first topic in this series is Fraud, Financial Abuse and Signs of Domestic Abuse. It will be presented by Melissa McMurdo, Deputy District Attorney, and Kellie Tyndall, Senior Victim Advocate at the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. They will provide an introduction to the criminal justice system, talk about how to avoid falling prey to financial scams, what to look for to identify scams and financial abuse, and resources available to those who are victims of abuse.

This program will be presented both in-person and over Zoom, so that it is accessible to everyone. The first in-person opportunity is on April 17th ,12pm at the Camarillo Public Library. To learn more and to register, call the Camarillo Healthcare District at 805-388-1952. The second opportunity is over Zoom on April 28th at 10am. Register for the seminar here.  

Do not answer calls from numbers you do not know and never give out personal and financial information over the phone. A common fraud is that scammers will call you and say they are from a government agency. They may threaten to stop your benefits if you do not make a payment or provide banking information. Social Security, the IRS, Medicare and other government programs will not call you requesting you to provide information. Always verify if you are unsure by calling yourself to the correct phone number for an agency in question (not one given to you over the phone) and asking them about the call.

I was recently visiting my parents and my mother got a call from someone saying they were her grandchild and were in trouble. My mother asked what their name was and they said a name of a family member, but my mother knew it was not correct and hung up the phone. This “grandparent” scam can often end in lost money. The person pretending to be a grandchild says they are in trouble, and they need money right away and then they beg the grandparent not to tell anyone.

When you provide money via a money transfer or gift cards you may never get your money back. However, that does not mean you should not report it. Often victims of fraud are hesitant to report because they don’t think it will help, and they may be embarrassed. The truth is that scammers are trained to catch you off guard and appear very real. No one needs to feel ashamed, and in fact, by sharing your experience with family and friends, you are helping protect them by educating them on what is possible.

Report fraud to the government here or you can call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-372-8311. Call your bank right away if money is involved and let the people close to you know what happened so they can support you in the process.

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Protect yourself and be wary of anything that sounds suspicious, or too good to be true. You worked hard for your money, and you deserve to protect it.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.



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