It is that time of the year again, where many people are fooled into giving
personal information to others. The most vulnerable part of our population
are the elderly. They are just too nice and trusting with personal information.
A local woman intentionally targeted the elderly for identity fraud. I
received the following email for the NC Attorney General's office:
According to several news reports from the Greensboro/Winston-Salem area,
late last week authorities in Davidson County brought more than 20 criminal
charges against a 34 year old Clemmons, NC woman, Heather Danyela Hill.
They alleged that she contacted elderly citizens who shared her last name,
pretended to be a local hospital official, told them they were entitled
to refunds from the hospital, and then tricked them into divulging Social
Security numbers and other sensitive financial information by representing
that the information was needed in order to process their refunds. She
allegedly used that information to obtain credit from banks and retail
chains, then purchased a family vacation and several expensive items.
Davidson County Sheriff David Grice’s description of how the alleged
scam worked is found in the following article from the
In December 2012, the AARP also conducted a study on
fraud on the elderly. The first finding was the elderly expose themselves to sales pitches
more than the average person, such as attending a time share meeting to
get a free hotel stay. Another factor is that the elderly are interested
in the topic of the scams such as guaranteed investments and reducing
mortgage payments. Finally, the elderly were less likely to check references
In the nursing home setting, the source of fraud can even be from family
members. I had a case once in which the daughter had power of attorney
and was using her elderly father's ATM card to go on beach trips.
She had literally taken all of his money, and the nursing home was threatening
to kick him out. Criminal charges were brought against her, and most of
the money was recovered. Sometimes, family members will also attempt to
have elderly persons sign over their house or possessions. Other family
members should ask for an occasional accounting just to show where the
money is going. This helps the person with a POA also, as it can allow
full disclosure of where the money is going so you aren't second guessed later.
Some other commercial sites, such as
Bankrate.com have prepared a list of the typical scams. It seems that sweepstakes and
other financial scams are common. The American Bar Association published
a long list of things to
watch out for and what to do about it. Please stay in contact with your loved ones and ask them questions. Make
sure to listen to them carefully and keep your eye out for danger.