Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones: Don’t Let the Seniors in Your Life be Exploited!
Fall is definitely here, and on this fun day for tricks and treats, we wish you and your family a safe and enjoyable Halloween Day and enjoyable holiday season.
Unfortunately, during this happy season when we have more opportunities to spend quality time with our family and friends, we also have to be more aware—and even vigilant at times—to protect ourselves and the seniors in our lives from being exploited. A couple of recent events that affected my family made me realize our office needs to help raise awareness about some schemes and types of exploitation in order to help you know how to safeguard yourself and your loved ones.
Please be aware that a so-called “Grandparents Scheme.” The typical way this scheme works is that callers target seniors, contact them by telephone, and pretend to be a grandchild in distress—needing emergency financial assistance. This is an ongoing scheme, and several seniors in the North Florida area have reported being contacted by criminals attempting to extort money from them.
The way this scheme typically works is that an imposter calls a grandparent, impersonates a grandchild, and describes some horrible situation they are in to the grandparent. The scenarios presented in very emotional ways including being in an accident, falsely arrested, or assaulted—and needing immediate help. The impostor often has researched the grandparent through Internet and Social Media information—and often even use nicknames as they imitate the grandchild in crisis. If a grandparent says the grandchild sounds different, these skilled criminals typically say they are ill, that they’ve had a nose broken, or some other plausible excuse. The impostor often acts very emotional, starts crying or yelling, and passes the phone on to an accomplice who pretends to be an authority figure attempting to help your grandchild. The accomplice in this scheme usually represents themselves as a doctor, lawyer, or member of law enforcement, and they come across in a very calm and compassionate way as they explain your loved ones predicament.
The stories these criminals present to the seniors often seem possible and even credibly due to the amount of details they provide about the crisis situation, and the details that don’t add up are often overlooked because a grandparent has been startled into an emotional reaction and wanting to help their grandchild who they believe is in a nightmare situation. These con artists inevitably ask the grandparent to wire money, and provide details, case numbers, false identification numbers, and seemingly-credible information to trick the grandparent into making a quick transaction. The amount requested is usually around $2,000, and these predators also will play up the emotional appeal, in order to increase the sense of urgency and timeliness, by saying something like the grandchild doesn’t want their parents to know due to embarrassment—or that they’ve even been placed on a suicide watch. It is a terrible scheme that is effective because these professional criminals establish credibility to reel in the innocent victims by tricking them with factual information, making them they are really talking with a grandchild, and then preying on emotions and attempting to instill as much fear as possible in the grandparent.
This scheme is not a new one, but it continues because it often works. It is huge money-maker for criminals who exploit seniors.
Our best defense is to spread the word about this scheme with the seniors we know, and advise them that if they are ever contacted in this way, to gather the information, and to call or e-mail their family members immediately to ensure they are safe, and report this to local authorities by calling the non-emergency number of local law enforcement. Awareness is key in protecting ourselves and our families from this scheme. More information about this scam is available from the U.S. Department of State.
Another area of concern is that we want you to be aware of that there are people who regularly solicit work from seniors and wind up exploiting them. Sadly, there are criminals in our communities who target seniors and offer services such as home repair or domestic help who wind up taking financial advantage of their victims—even using intimidation and violence at times. There are many good people who may come around your neighborhoods in search of work who will provide legitimate services, but it is often difficult to know who we can and cannot trust these days.
If you or a senior in your life are solicited by someone seeking employment, please take some steps to ensure you are not taken advantage of, or are being put at risk. First off, if you are really in need of these services being offered ask for a card, contact information, and a written bid for the work. Let the person soliciting employment know you need to check some references. A true professional craftsperson will be happy to let you know who they’ve worked for, and should have some printed information they can provide you. Be careful about engaging with individuals who ask for money up front or a deposit, and take steps to ensure you are hiring someone you can trust. A simple Google or Bing search will bring up public and arrest records and scam alerts—as well as consumer reviews of either positive or negative experiences with service providers.
We must safeguard ourselves and our seniors when hiring people for work around our homes to ensure that we are not taken advantage of financially—and to maintain personal safety.
For more information about how to address these issues, the Clay County Sherriff’s Office provides tips for residential security at: http://www.claysheriff.com/ResSecinfo.asp.
You can also download the brochure, “Smart Consumers Can Stop Fraud” that is produced by the Office of the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi at: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/KGRG-8MHMAS/$file/2011SmartConsumersSeniorsGuide.pdf.
Bondi also provides many other resources to help protect seniors at: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/42F7E9863E5E076E852570AB0059ED90
Many domestic service providers are bonded and have materials to provide you with that help you ensure services you pay for are actually provided. Also, a concern we all need to be aware of is what would happen if a worker becomes injured while working on your property. Does your insurance cover such an incident? You don’t want to wind up being held accountable for an injury that happens on your property, and sadly, there are people who make it practice to seek compensation for such incidents. If you have questions about this liability issue, contact your insurance carrier to ensure you are protected.
If you or a loved one feels that you are being targeted by individuals who are seeking to exploit or intimidate you, contact local law enforcement, and make a report. Also, make your family members and neighbors are aware of the situation.
We don’t want you to live in fear. We just want you to be alert and cautious. We want you to stay safe, healthy, and happy.
Don’t let yourself—or any seniors in your—life be a victim!
Our office seeks to be a resource of current and valuable information for you, and please feel free to contact us if you ever face an issue of senior scam or exploitation so we can help you or direct you to someone who specializes in your area of concern.
We are here for you! And we hope you enjoy this holiday season as you look forward to a great new year ahead.