If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

Scams One of our clients recently contacted us regarding his good fortune:

“We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Lottery Winners International programs… Your address attached to ticket number 2051146 won in the second category, you have therefore been approved to receive a sum of 1,000,000.00 Euro. Congratulations!!!”

You probably recognize the paragraph above from a common mail/e-mail scam letter. This letter (or something like it) makes the rounds quite frequently in an attempt to part unsuspecting people from their money. Most of us simply trash the letter and move on, but the elderly are more likely to fall victim to the scam and end up losing hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars before they realize they’ve been duped. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal tells the story of one of these elderly victims and his family’s attempts to save him from the con artists:

“In less than a year, this Ivy League-educated professional sent at least $23,000 to slick con artists who came to know his personal interests, as well as his bank-account, credit-card and other personal information.”

The article states that the elderly are more likely to fall victim to these scams if they live alone, are grieving for a lost spouse, or have started to lose cognitive capacity. Luckily, there are ways to protect a loved one from scammers; protections from con artists and creditors can be built into trusts and estate plans, or in extreme situations a trusted family member can be given power of attorney over bank accounts and financial matters.

If you are concerned about a loved one and would like to take more immediate action, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Sign up phone numbers on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry.
  • Gather scam mail in one envelope and place it in your mailbox with the note “Forward to Postal Inspector—suspected mail fraud.”
  • Add Caller ID service to the phone and only answer when it’s a known caller.
  • Place a short “I’m sorry, I’m too busy to talk right now. Thank you for your call” script by the phone to help respond to telemarketing calls.

If the fraudulent activity continues you can call the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1-800-646-2283. But the best thing you can do for your loved one is to be patient, supportive, and aware.