Identity Thieves View Elderly As Trusting Victims

Older people make easy targets for identity thieves.
This is “because they are more trusting and less aware of the increasing variety of scams,” according to the website of an expert on identity theft who offers six tips for helping to protect loved ones from falling victims.
Denver-based John Sileo, according to his firm’s website, became “America’s leading identity theft speaker and expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach.”
“Although most of our older relatives have no interests in the complexities of smartphones, computers, the Internet and online banking, many that give it a try leave themselves defenseless against thieves,” according to the site. “The elderly can be easily targeted online or through the mail in old-fashioned schemes to steal their identity and ultimately their money. They are more likely to tell a stranger stories of their past that include simple password reminders. They are less likely to suspect that an interested individual is a con artist and not just a new friend. They can also be conned through the phone or in person by thieves impersonating a representative from a charity or a well-known company.”
These are the expert’s suggestions for thwarting would-be scammers:

  • Online Security. Encourage them to continue to bank in person rather than online and have the bank inform you of any purchase over a certain dollar amount. Also, install security software on any computer they use and keep it up to date. If they do click on a link including a virus their computer and information will be more protected.
  • Freeze their credit. A credit freeze is the fastest and easiest way to protect yourself from identity theft. A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, that they won’t allow new accounts to be attached to your name or Social Security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time.
  • Credit Check and Monitoring Service. If you are not going to do a credit freeze, then frequently check their credit report with them to make sure they understand if any new accounts have been opened.
  • Opt Out. Have them opt out of junk mail that comes from financial institutions. They can do this by going to or by calling 1-888-567-8688.
  • Buy them a shredder. By shredding anything that has their name, address, birthday, social security number, or account numbers they will be less likely to have their identity stolen through the trash. Teach them what to shred and make it convenient.
  • Keep them Informed. By staying current on the newest scams and social engineering techniques you can not only protect yourself, but also you can protect others.

Problem Of ‘Pension Predators’ Is Growing

The American Association of Retired Persons is warning older Americans to be wary of what the organization is labeling “pension predators.”

Veterans Day Ceremony
(Photo credit: North Charleston)
A recent item in the AARP Bulletin focused on the case of a disabled Navy retiree from Laurel, MD, named Darryl Henry, who served his country honorably for two decades and then was dishonorably treated by a predatory firm out of California.
“In 2003 he read an ad and arranged to get a cash advance in exchange for signing over almost all of his $1,083 monthly pension for eight years,” the article states. “Henry, who spent 20 years in the Navy, agreed to pay a company associated with Structured Investments Co. of Southern California $1,070 a month in return for money upfront. The repayment cost for the $42,131 advance: $102,720.”
The story went on to relate how Henry served as lead plaintiff in a case brought by a total of 61 retired people who had all fallen victim to the same scam. They won, and a California Superior Court issued an order in 2011 that they should be repaid nearly $3 million.
“The victory was sweet, but brief,” the AARP Bulletin stated. “Within weeks, Structured Investments declared bankruptcy. None of the victims has received any restitution.”
The Walnut Creek, Calif., attorney who filed the suit on Henry’s behalf has vowed to get his client and the others their money, even going so far as to spend $225,000 of his own money in pursuing the case, according to the article.
“Henry is one of an unknown number of people who have signed over their pensions to a growing army of pension predators who go after veterans and other retirees who have a steady income stream,” the story stated. “Smooth talkers encourage them to tap their future income for a cash lump sum now, often at an exorbitant cost.
“The good news is that Congress and some states are beginning to go after those who prey on people with pensions. AARP supports efforts to license lenders and ensure that they comply with federal and state consumer disclosure laws, state small-loan interest rate caps and usury laws. AARP also has urged the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to issue regulations ‘to eliminate unfair, deceptive and abusive practices in the alternative financial services industry.’ For now, though, people with pensions need to be their own first line of defense.”

Website Offers Warning Signs For Caregiver Thieves

It should be the last thing people have to worry about when hiring someone to care for an elderly loved one.
But it’s not.

A German nurse in scrubs.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Talk to anyone who’s hired someone to help care for an older loved one, and theft is almost always a major worry,” according to a recent article on “Bringing a paid caregiver into the home, whether through an agency or privately, can come as welcome relief to all, but it can also feel like a risky decision. Stories abound about vulnerable people who’ve been taken advantage of.”
The site goes on to offer some helpful tips in being vigilant on behalf of the person being cared for.
These include receipts that don’t add up.
“If grocery shopping and other errands are among a caregiver’s responsibilities, it’s pretty easy for ‘mix-ups’ to occur,” points out. “You might notice items listed on a receipt that seem out of character for your loved one, or certain supplies that seem to run out, and be replaced, with surprising frequency.”
“You may see $6.50 for a lipstick, knowing Grandma doesn’t wear lipstick, but if you let it slide you’re sending a signal that no one’s minding the store,” Carolyn Rosenblatt, author of The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents,” was quoted as saying.
Other warning signs, states, include the caregiver making frequent cell phone calls while on the job, cultivating a personal rather than a professional relationship with the client, making bids for sympathy and frequently missing work on Mondays.
“This is a classic sign of alcoholism or substance abuse; people go on a bender over the weekend and then can’t make it into work on Mondays,” Rosenblatt told the website. “Unfortunately, alcoholism and chemical dependency often go hand in hand, and they frequently lead people to steal to meet their need for drugs.”

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Investment Scams Increasingly Target Veterans

There is no free lunch.
“There are thousands of ‘free lunch’ seminars that attract large audiences,” Elliot Raphaelson of Tribune Media Services wrote in a story published Dec. 19. “In 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority scrutinized 110 securities firms that presented free lunch seminars. Their report found that 100 percent of them were sales presentations, despite the fact that the majority were advertised as ‘educational.’ The report also indicated that 50 percent of these meetings featured misleading advertising; 23 percent involved possibly unsuitable recommendations; and 13 percent appeared to be fraudulent. If you attend a free lunch seminar, and the products offered seems too good to be true, they probably are. For years, AARP has warned about ‘veterans’ advocates’ who in fact are unscrupulous investment advisers interested only in generating commissions for themselves.

“According to AARP, scams targeting veterans are increasing across the country.”
“At community centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, their spiel to older veterans goes something like this: We can get you instant eligibility for additional benefits through a quick overhaul of your investments,” Sid Kirchheimer wrote in October 2010 AARP Bulletin. “These self-described ‘veterans advocates’ are in fact unscrupulous investment advisers. The usual pitch involves getting a veteran to transfer retirement assets into an irrevocable trust so that the family appears to be impoverished. This helps it meet eligibility requirements for a VA pension and related programs such as Aid and Attendance, which pays an additional benefit to veterans who need assistance with everyday living.”
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with irrevocable trusts for older veterans; they can and do work quite well. The problem is with the annuities unscrupulous financial planners can sell with them.
The wisest course in setting up a trust is to consult with a VA-accredited elder law attorney.
Investment dodges of any kind are disgraceful, but those aimed at this segment of the population are all the more so.
“Veteran scams, targeting a group of people who provide such a valuable and selfless service to their country, have to be one of the most despicable crimes,” according to the website scambusters. “Not only do the crooks have our vets in their sights but they also abuse their reputation by pulling off con tricks in their names. They trade on other people’s patriotism and gratitude to make money that really belongs in the pockets of vets.”

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