Caring for Your Parents: Elder Fraud
Seniors frequently targeted for scams
ANCHORAGE - Scott Sterling, director of the state office of Elder Fraud and Assistance, said Alaskan seniors are targeted for scams more frequently than seniors in other states.
The attraction? With no state income tax and a Permanent Fund dividend check every year, scammers know that Alaskan seniors are more likely to have higher incomes.
Marian McDonald knows about scammers first hand. The volunteer librarian at the Anchorage Senior Center has been hit up more than once. One time it was an unlikely email from a “friend” she’d seen in the states just days before.
“It said she was in France and she was stuck and she needed $5,000 to get home,” said McDonald. “It said her purse had been stolen and she’d lost everything, including her passport and money and all her identification.”
McDonald knew her friend was not in Europe, just like McDonald’s husband knew that he was being scammed when he got a phone call one day at home.
“This boy gets on the phone and said ‘Hi Grandpa!’ And my husband said, ‘I can’t be your Grandpa because I don’t have any children!’”
Both scammers wanted money and didn’t get it, but Sterling, with the Elder Fraud office, has seen plenty of cases where they did.
“There were upwards of $850,000 in cash losses in 20 cases involving Alaskan seniors in just one year.”
Sterling said seniors can be vulnerable to all kinds of scams, especially those that look official. One of the more common varieties involves overseas lotteries or contests where the senior is asked to send money to claim a bigger prize. Sterling said seniors who respond get hit again and again with requests for more money but are often hesitant to report it.
“There’s an element of secretiveness about this,” said Sterling. “And it comes from feeling that maybe this isn’t right but I don’t want to tell anyone because I don’t want to be embarrassed by anyone thinking that I’m so foolish to do this.”
Sterling said adult children can help their elders by keeping the lines of communication open. He recommends talking to parents about who may be contacting them and what they are doing with their money. It’s important to let them know in a non-judgmental way that you want to help protect them and their finances.
“It’s not so much that you are going to be able to stop the inflow,” said Sterling, “but you are going to be able to intercede and say, we are not going to pay attention to this, and we are certainly not going to send money or any other identifying financial information.”
“Talk to them and see what’s really going on, see if they’ll talk about it, because if you see something and say something, you may be able to prevent a great loss.”
Getting money back from a scammer is almost impossible but authorities say it’s still important to report cases to the police. Authorities can use the information to warn others and also check in with seniors who may be vulnerable to getting scammed again.
If you’d like more about caring for your aging parents you can text KTVAAGING to 28201.
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