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.
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 scams such as guaranteed investments and reducing mortgage payments. Finally, the elderly were less likely to check references for businesses.
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 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.