Social isolation, loneliness, bereavement, alcohol or drug abuse, dependence on others, mental illness or depression are some of the conditions that can make senior citizens susceptible to exploitation and scams.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Day, and a time to highlight the issue of financial exploitation of seniors. While some seniors only need to be reminded of the warning signs, others may need caregivers or loved ones to spot threats.
Prince William Police 1st Sgt. Ruben Castilla said one of the primary things people should remember is not to give out their personal information to anyone making unsolicited phone calls or sending unsolicited emails or letters. People should never disclose their personal information unless they initiated the transaction. “Don’t give out anything related to your banking. Your banking institutions know who you are. They would never call you asking you for personal information.”
Scams are wide-ranging and may seem harmless to the unwary, but Castilla said people should be aware of the schemes that may be used to defraud people. “There are so many scams. There are credit card-related, magazine sales, investment fraud, over payment, work-at-home, vacation travel, Nigerian money, foreign lottery, pyramid, scholarships and charities scams. That’s just scratching the surface.”
To report a suspected scam, call the Prince William County Police Department at 703-792-6500 or 703-792-7270, or leave a post on the department’s Facebook
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Crime Prevention Council, many of the scams will involve high-pressure tactics that should raise suspicion.
Castilla said seniors often report the scam to police soon after they realized what happened. Other times, family members or caregivers are the first to notice the exploitation. Seniors should turn to someone who has their best interests at heart. “We encourage them to find someone that they know and trust that can help be on the lookout.”
If you are concerned about finances and need assistance preventing exploitation and understanding the options available to you, call the Area Agency on Aging at 703-792-6374. You can also find more information on financial exploitation and resources available on the Area Agency on Aging’s website
If you are a caregiver and notice the following common financial concerns for those you care for, contact Adult Protective Services at 703-792-4200 or after hours at 1-800-552-7096:
- There seems to be trouble paying bills; loans/gifts are more than can be afforded
- There seems to be less confidence making big financial decisions alone; someone else seems to be making financial decisions that are not understood
- Others are pressuring them to give them money
- People are saying a lottery or something similar has been won
- Someone is accessing accounts or money seems to be missing
Castilla said people should remember that if it is too good to be true, it is not. “If you did not ask for information, you shouldn’t even be talking to these people.”