The Orlando Sentinel reported last week on a new scam that federal authorities believe is being used to target seniors. All local seniors are being warned about the effort, the latest in a seemingly endless string of fraudulent activities targeting the elderly community. Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys appreciate that the vulnerability of many seniors–often those who live alone–make them prime targets for unscrupulous individuals seeking to make a quick buck.
According to the story, this latest scam involves claims about “sweepstakes” winnings. The scam works by fraudsters making anonymous calls to seniors claiming that they have won the well-known Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. The scammers claim that the senior will receive various prizes, but with smaller sums needed to be paid first to collect. In fact, the caller claims that the senior would even be driven to the bank by a member of the FBI and sweepstakes officials to withdraw the necessary funds.
Unfortunately, many have fallen for this senior financial exploitation in recent weeks and months The details of the scam are altered somewhat but each usually involve claims of winning and the need to make a payment first to collect those winnings. For example, the story explains how one woman ended up forking over $5,000 to scammers to pay what she thought was back-taxes and storage on two vehicles she owned.
The Sweepstakes Scam
Authorities have gotten a wave of reports of this sort of scam. They explain that the seniors are usually targeted because they previously filled out forms or signed up for offers online. Scammers take that information submitted online and then call the senior. The caller says that the senior won the sweepstakes for which they signed up online. Often the caller claims that the prize will be given as soon as the senior buys something called a “Green Dot MoneyPak card.” The card allows individuals to buy things without a checking account or credit card. The victims usually load the card, with the information and funds stolen.
Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys know that it is crucial not to take these scams too lightly. It is easy to identify as suspicious when reading about the deal, but the situation is much different when dealing with it while talking to a real person on the phone. It is easy to believe the claims made over the phone, especially when one is naturally trusting.
For that reason it is crucial to keep an eye on the finances of local seniors who may be at risk of being exploited. In addition, it is helpful for seniors to be educated about these common scams and basic safety tips to avoid being victimized. Some of the most common tips to protect seniors include:
–Never give identifying information (social security number, credit card details) to those over the phone unless you initiate the contact. Anyone calling randomly and asking for this information is suspect.
–Be very cautious about filling out forms where personal information is needed.
–Online forms are a key “fishing” spot for these scammers. For that reason, when filling out one of these forms always uncheck the box that allows the site to give out the information to other companies.
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