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Beware of scammers targeting the elderly

Why do schemes target the elderly? A variety of assumptions are often to blame. Those over 65 have the greatest accumulation of wealth, they are usually compassionate supporting many causes and they might not be as tech savvy.

From tax scams claiming an unpaid bill to fake charitable organizations, criminals are constantly looking for new ways to separate seniors from their hard earned savings. Often the first indication that a loved one can no longer handle his or her finances comes too late after they have fallen victim.

As aging loved ones enter their 70s and 80s, it is important to educate them on identifying and avoiding these scams. Here is a partial list of red flags, but remember that scammers are constantly coming up with more sophisticated schemes.

Sophisticated tactics designed to trick even the skeptical

Tax scams that involve IRS agent impersonators are constantly evolving. The caller ID number may even list the IRS. A person will call claiming to be a IRS agent who needs to either verify information or is calling about a tax bill. The amount can sound realistic - for example $1,247.34. The caller demands immediate payment and may threaten arrest. But the IRS never calls out of the blue. It also doesn't demand immediate payment over the phone or threaten arrest.

At the beginning of the year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimated that they had received 900,000 reports of these types of scams. Victims were tricked out of more than $25 million.

Taking advantage of generosity

A common scam is to call an elderly person and ask for a donation to a purported charity. Land lines seem especially prone to these calls since older people are often those who still have them. In many cases these charities are not real - many pop up shortly after a natural disaster such as the flooding in Louisiana.

The best case scenario is a credit card charge that could be disputed. A deduction from a banking account might just be a loss. But the worst situation and hardest to resolve is when the information provided is enough for the con artist to start using your loved one's identity.

Avoid these issues by only donating to causes where you initiate the contact. A call out of the blue from a claimed charity, the IRS or any other outfit asking for/demanding money is always a red flag. If tempted to give to a charity, do the research and check it out with the Better Business Bureau.

While scams target the most vulnerable members of our community, we can educate aging loved ones. It may also be necessary to have difficult conversations with aging relatives and friends when there are signs that financial skills are deteriorating.

If you only learn of the issues after a loved one has been a victim of fraud, contact a skilled elder law attorney, who may be able to recover some of their money and ensure protective measures are in place going forward.

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