WASHINGTON, DC – Tis the season to be jolly and for seniors to beware of fraudsters who target the elderly this time of the year. What makes older folk more susceptible to becoming targets for scammers during the holiday season? The consensus is that the older we get the more charitable we become, says the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
The National Institutes of Health
calls it “positivity bias.” It’s a condition that makes “older adults draw more positive affect from both the planning and outcome of monetary donations and hence benefit more from engaging in monetary charity than their younger counterparts.”
According to the FBI
, scammers target seniors “because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers … Additionally, seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed at having been scammed.”
The phone rings and the caller identifies himself or herself as representing a charitable organization that helps needy kids or disadvantaged families. He or she asks for an over the phone credit card donation. There are variations of this particular scam. For example, the caller may say that a relative is in trouble and needs money and gets an elderly “mark” to wire funds.
And then there are the con artists who prefer the person-to-person approach. They’ll hand around the mall looking for gray hair and when they spot a likely victim, they will simply approach him or her, recite a well-rehearsed spiel tale of need and ask for a handout. A variant of this approach is a bit more theatrical. For example, they will dress for the occasion and represent themselves as an authorized solicitor working for the Salvation Army or a relief organization collecting funds for families displaced by a recent disaster such as a fire, flood or storm, for example.
The Internet has facilitated these types of rip-offs. With more and more seniors becoming tech-savvy and learning how to use a computer, swindlers have yet another way to separate
a kind seniors from their money. Email solicitations are growing in popularity among these seasonal thieves. The holidays allow them to stalk the World Wide Web with seemingly personal messages from organizations and companies that seem very honest. They can make email messages look very real by mimicking the actual logos of legitimate charities and retailers. This technique allows them to get your money via a phony charitable contribution or get you to make a fake holiday purchase online.
Gerry Hafer, Executive Director of the AMAC Foundation, says that AMAC has long been focused on the issue of elder fraud. The Foundation, AMAC
itself, and its advocacy subsidiary, AMAC Action, have joined forces to create an Elder Fraud Initiative to aid in development of an instructional approach to help seniors protect themselves. The initiative aims to provide a guide for online protection, a sort of how-to protocol for defending against fraud. Hafer reports, “Our website blog page
already presents a variety of News & Info posts associated with elder fraud and will soon provide a comprehensive guide for online protection that our tech folks are in the process of preparing.”