March 4, 2012

USA: Scams targeting the elderly on the rise

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina / The Charlotte Observer / News / March 4, 2012

By David Crary, Associated Press, New York

Mickey Rooney sued his stepson on allegations he convinced him 
he was on the brink of poverty and bullied him to continue work. 
He testified in March 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington about 
elder abuse before the Senate Aging Committee. Alex Brandon - AP

Read more here:
Boomers beware: Scams, frauds and other financial exploitation schemes targeting older Americans are a growing multibillion-dollar industry enriching the schemers, anguishing the victims and vexing law enforcement officials, who find these crimes among the hardest to investigate and prosecute.

Elder financial abuse encompasses a wide range of tactics, some perpetrated by relatives or trusted advisers, some by strangers via telemarketing and Internet-based scams.

Researchers say only a fraction of the abuse gets reported, often because victims are too befuddled or embarrassed.

A federally funded study conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 2009 found 5 percent of Americans 60 and older had been victims of recent financial exploitation by a family member, while 6.5 percent were targets of a nonfamily member. The study, led by psychologist Ron Acierno of the Medical University of South Carolina, was based on input from 5,777 older adults. A report last year by insurer MetLife Inc. estimated the annual loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion, compared with $2.6 billion in 2008.

Older Americans are by no means the only target of schemers and scammers, but experts say they have distinctive characteristics that often make them a tempting prey.

Some have disabilities that leave them dependent on others for help; others are unsophisticated about certain financial matters or potential pitfalls on the Internet. Many are relatively isolated and susceptible to overtures from seemingly friendly strangers.

"That's why telemarketing scams are so successful," said Karen Turner, head of a newly formed elder fraud unit in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office in New York City. "They're delighted to have someone to talk with ."
Coupled with these factors, most older Americans have tangible assets in the form of homeownership, pensions and Social Security income that scammers seek to exploit.

Source: The Charlotte Observer
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