Older adults and fraud prevention

Seniors and their families may think they are safe while in quarantine at home, but, unfortunately, scammers have not taken a break, and, in fact, there has been an increase of scams and identity theft happening to our vulnerable population.

Coronavirus scams are spreading nearly as fast as the coronavirus itself. As of Oct. 1, the Federal Trade Commission had logged more than 214,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments, two-thirds of them involving fraud or identity theft. Victims have reported losing $153.6 million, with a median loss of $300.

The FBI says con artists are advertising fake COVID-19 antibody tests in hopes of harvesting personal information they can use in identity theft or  health insurance scams.

While the world is looking for hope, these scammers are using every opportunity to tap into it for their financial gain: from COVID contact tracing, to protective equipment, to lottery prizes and even grandchildren that need to be “bailed” out of jail; having a home has become almost as dangerous as leaving your wallet inside of an unlocked car.

“People are feeling very vulnerable and lost right now. Some seek out a therapist or religious adviser; some turn to a vice, like drinking, gambling or shopping; and some look to a psychic,” AARP’s Fraud Programs Director Amy Nofziger said.

Here are two recent cases reported in our state through AARP:

— A 73-year-old man in Washington state lost big bucks to a psychic in hopes of winning back an ex-girlfriend.

The spiritualist not only took his money but also had him charge expensive jewelry that he gave the psychic to present to the man’s lost love. The woman never got the gifts, nor did she reconcile with him. Now practically broke, he’s saddled with the credit card bills for the jewelry.

— A 72-year-old woman in Seattle gave $20,000 to a psychic for information about a new relationship. When she complained to the police, they refused to follow up on her case, she said.

There is also a concern that many seniors are not reporting being part of a scam because of shame.

Aegis Living and The Attorney General Office are presenting a free webinar from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10 to help families identify and prevent this. To RSVP, please go to https://aegisliving.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CjSGpVtDR7617ajeoburtQ.

The event will discuss current fraud and scammer tactics. It will share how to spot red flags that may indicate a fraudulent encounter; resources people can turn to in the event you or a loved one is targeted; steps you can take to help protect yourself and your loved ones.

For additional resources for seniors, contact a local Aegis Living community, or email Sandra.cook@aegisliving.com.