Multimedia Storyteller
Apr 17

5 Ways Strangers Can Scam the Elderly

In “Stop Scamming Grandma,” we discussed the delicate nature of elder financial abuse at the hands of known family members. In this article, we’ll look at 5 ways strangers can scam the elderly. With unscrupulous stranger crimes, the methods used to gain an elder’s trust are different. And the dangers are a bit different, too.

Here’s how complete strangers manage to steal away with an elder’s trust, money, heart and mind. The stranger con artist goes out of his or her way to:

Get hired as a caregiver, counselor or housekeeper.

Under-served elders may be especially eager to accept seemingly friendly help from a neighborhood “do-gooder” or from anyone who appears to care about their well-being. But all elders are at risk. These are commonly called “caregiver scams.”

  • Financial scammers try to pull on their victim’s heartstrings with a personal sob story in order to eventually control their purse-strings.
  • Unqualified scammers usually profess to be far more skilled at caring for elders than they are. This deception can easily lead to other forms of abuse and manipulation.
  • Abusive scammers and unqualified scammers are cut from the same cloth. Abusive scammers may have the basic skills to care for elders. But they lack the basic emotional competencies of patience and compassion. Under such care, an elder could soon be facing physical abuse.

Profess their love for the victim.

The FBI and other senior-care advocates call this the “sweetheart scam.” The imposter inches into the victim’s heart to gain easier access to the victim’s bank account.

  • According to Nickolas Savage, the former section chief of the FBI’s Cyber Division, the average financial loss from such schemes is between $15,000 and $20,000. And the victims are usually women, ages 50 to 59, who “really believe they’re in a relationship.”
  • Today’s con artists find most of their victims through online dating sites.

Scour the neighborhood for victims.

This may involve driving through a neighborhood in search of what appears to be an isolated elder. Elders who fetch their own mail from the mailbox every day or take solo strolls every evening probably live alone. The watchful crook is taking note of such patterns and details before closing in on their victim.

  • The fraudster often makes their way into the elder’s personal space by offering to mow a lawn, fix a porch light or do the grocery shopping. And with that last one, they’ve got the elder’s debit card.
  • This problem can spread like a nasty cold if the elder victim then tells a friend about their trusty new helper. Chances are, their friends will want to meet — and hire — this scam artist, too.

Search for newly widowed elders.

Fraudsters can find out who is newly widowed simply by skimming newspaper obituaries. They can also just as easily learn who the widow’s relatives are, including their name and what city they live in.

  • Relying on social media profiles, including professional ones like LinkedIn, a con artist can pretend to know an elder’s friends and relatives personally. Masqueraders can also pose as insurance agents or other trusted officials using personal information they found online.

Remain on the go.

Any of the above-mentioned scam artists preying on the elderly can also be what are called “transient criminals.”

  • Experienced and determined individuals have no problem packing up and moving on when they sense that their act is unraveling. And they are like magicians when it comes time to disappear. Having only shared a fake name and fake history with their victims, they can leave town without a trace.
  • Caregivers, sweethearts, handy helpers and insurance agents can all double as transient criminals. So, be careful when dealing with new people who enter into your or your loved one’s life. And remember, most strangers who target the elderly do not have a sign on their forehead, identifying them as scam artists. Stay diligent.
About the Author:
Angela J. Bass is a multimedia journalist from Oakland, California.

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