Many of the crimes committed against the elderly reflect what is happening to the population in general. While many types of crime could involve any age, a few categories, frauds and scams, purse snatching, pick pocketing, theft of checks from the mail and crimes in long-term care settings, claim more older than younger victims, according to AARP studies. One category, elder abuse, finds all of its victims in the older population. Reports of violent crimes spread rapidly through the mature community and affect that portion of the population dramatically. Although statistics show that violent crime against the elderly is rare as compared to other age groups, many older people fear physical harm.
Property Crime. The invasion of an elderly’ living quarters and damage to possessions may be economically and emotionally destructive. The loss of possessions may be less destructive than never feeling secure in those living quarters after the incident.
Frauds and Scams. Loss of money can be critical for anyone with limited financial resources, but for many older persons, it can be devastating. Some of the elderly are even more susceptible to fraudulent schemes. While it is difficult to draw general conclusions, there are various factors (and combinations of factors) that can lead to victimization – especially when they are combined with reduced mental and physical abilities. Several of these factors are:
Loneliness:Those older persons who do not have a chance to talk with others as much as they wish may be receptive to a friendly, smooth-talking con artist.
Grief:An older person who has lost close friends or relatives to death may be seeking companionship.
Loss:An older person deprived of friends, family, job, or routine may become depressed and can, in some instances, be a target for swindlers.
Sensory impairment:Older people with poor eyesight or hearing loss can become easy marks for con games such as those involving fraudulent contracts with small print.
Illness:An older person who is ill and in pain may grasp at the promise of a miracle cure.
Vanity:The reluctance to exhibit characteristics of aging may make older persons vulnerable to products and schemes to “cure” aging or the symptoms of aging.
Limited Income:The older retiree who is on a fixed income and alarmed about unforeseen inflation may take risks when apparently easy money is offered.
Mistrust of banks:Some older persons may keep substantial amounts of cash at home, remembering post-Depression era concern about bank failures. They worry about more recent accounts of depositors losing money and also find it difficult to get to the bank. This money could be lost to them not only through frauds and scams but robberies and burglaries as well.
Isolation:Some elderly living alone may be unequipped to deal with home repairs. Lacking a readily available second opinion, they may succumb to the offers of the proverbial dishonest roof repairer or driveway resurfacer.
Elder Abuse. Although it is generally recognized that elder abuse may be vastly underreported, some authorities suggest that there could be as many as 2.5 million incidents of abuse of older persons in any given year. Mistreatment occurs both in domestic and institutional settings. As the older population increases, it is likely that the incidents of mistreatment also will grow.
How to Avoid Becoming the Victim of a con artist
The con artist will appear to be a polite, soft-spoken individual who sometimes poses a police detective, repair person, or banking official. But beware! Behind this familiar facade, lies a cunning, heartless individual with only one goal in mind – getting your money! The con artist has no conscience and to them you are nothing more than an income source. Familiarize yourself with four of the most common con games:
The Bank Examiner
The phone rings. The caller, who may be male or female, is a very convincing, professional sounding person who claims to work for your bank, or even the Federal Reserve. They may seem to know a lot about your personal affairs – even your bank balance. They tell you there’s a crooked bank employee who has been stealing money from customer’s accounts and in order to catch the thief, they need your help. You are asked to withdraw a large sum of money from your account and then meet with him or a police detective so that the money can be counted and marked. When you hand over the money you are given a receipt or a cashier’s check. You are assured the money will be returned to your account.
Remember, when you give the money over, it’s gone forever! These con artists are members of deceit. They pose as banking officials and police detectives. They may produce official-looking ID cards, badges, guns and radios. Don’t be fooled. Banks and law enforcement agencies do not conduct investigations in this manner. If ever approached in this manner, contact you bank and law enforcement right away, and leave your money IN THE BANK!!!
The Pigeon Drop
You could be at the bank, on a street corner, or in a shopping center when two strangers approach. They act as though they have never met but they are actually working a carefully rehearsed routine, which is designed to take your money! One claims to have just found an envelope, a package, or a purse containing a large sum of money. A note with the cash may give the impression that the money is as the result of illegal activity. The three of you discuss what should be done. One of ‘them’ says they work for a lawyer, an accountant, or some other professional and offers to go ask for advice.
Upon their return, you are told that their boss said it would be all right to divide the cash equally, but first you must prove you are a reputable person with money of your own. They, of course, have a large amount of money on them, proving they are reputable. They drive you to your bank so you can withdraw what they call ‘Good Faith’ money. They tell you the next step is to show your ‘Good Faith’ money to the ‘Boss’. You are told to go to the office of the ‘Boss’ to get your cut.
If you have gone this far, it is too late, because you will soon find that there is no such person as the ‘Boss’ and that the strangers switched your money with cut up paper. YOU WILL NOT SEE THE STRANGERS OR YOUR MONEY AGAIN!!!
Should someone approach you and says they have just found a large sum of money, leave immediately! THE ONLY NEWLY FOUND MONEY WILL BE YOURS!!!
A workman comes to the door offering to do some costly repair work for what seems like a bargain price. He might say his father put the roof on the house years earlier and he is here to do any necessary repairs nearly cost-free. Or he might say he was in the neighborhood doing another job and has some left over materials that must be used quickly. If you agree to let him do the work, when he is finished, he will return to your door and give you a much higher price than you expected. By now the work is completed and he tells you that you must pay or he will take you to court.
If someone comes to your door offering to do repair work, REFUSE!Legitimate contractors normally don’t go door-to-door soliciting business. If you NEED repair work, YOU call the contractor!
The Badge Player
This scam is used on someone who has already fallen victim to another con game. The con artist, posing as a police detective, tells you he is investigating the earlier case and needs to discuss details of the case with you. He may show you pictures of possible suspects, even photos of the actual crooks who swindled you. He might say they are about to make an arrest, but the law enforcement agency cannot afford the expenses involved to travel out of town, so you are asked for the travel money. If you provide that travel money, it is your money going on that one-way trip!
Should someone come to your door and says he is a law enforcement officer, make certain you ask to see their badge or ID card. Examine them closely. Then call the non-emergency number listed in YOUR phone book for the local law enforcement agency. DO NOT CALL A NUMBER PROVIDED BY THE SO-CALLED DETECTIVE AT YOUR DOOR. And do not ever pay expenses. No law enforcement agency works that way!