The U.S. Department of Justice has recently prosecuted defendants across the country related to a Jamaican lottery scam. In a recent webinar discussing elder financial abuse, a lawyer with the DOJ stressed that effective schemes do not work if they sound to go to be true.
That typical advice, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” does a disservice. It sends a message that a person was not smart enough to detect the fraud. Scams are designed to sound reasonable and they are constantly evolving. Tax-related scams have been found to originate out of call centers in India. The training and organization that goes into these schemes is often worldwide and sophisticated.
How to uncover a scam
The average loss of a victim of elder financial abuse is a staggering $36,000. That is a lot when living on a fixed income.
Family members need to ask questions. Who have you been contacted by through the mail, phone or in person is a set of questions that may turn up red flags. Some schemes stay under the radar with small charges. A $10 monthly charge or a $20 charge every quarter add up, but often won’t be spotted unless credit card statements are closely reviewed.
What can a victim or family member do?
Early intervention is a key. Sometimes a loved one might not even realize they have been taken by in by a fraudulent scheme.
Several steps to immediately take include:
- Report what happened to the local police and the state attorney general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Use payment mechanisms to seek help (a credit card chargeback or possible fraud protection component of the victim's credit card)
Going to court may be another option (for example, restitution in a local criminal case). The facts of what happened may also indicate it is time to pursue guardianship proceedings to put extra protections in place.
Working with an elder law attorney is a way to put in place a comprehensive strategy that that will meet your needs.