Houston Seniors Can Protect Themselves Against Scammers

July 21, 2012
shell game

Senior scammers may not be as easy to spot as the street-corner shell game

Financial elder abuse continues to be on the rise and families are aware that protecting older adults takes diligence and awareness of their loved ones’ daily routines.  However, sometimes a scam or potentially vulnerable situation may be hard to identify, especially for long distance family caregivers.

Adult children and other family members can work to educate themselves about crimes and theft trends targeted toward older adults by contacting agency’s such as Houston’s Better Business Bureau Silver Sleuths program.  This program educates senior consumers about financial elder abuse topics, such as  fraud and crime in their area, and works with senior centers to promote safety awareness.


Financial elder abuse tactics can include:

Crimes of occasion, or opportunity:  Financial abuse or exploitation that occurs because the victim stands between the scammer and what the scammer wants.  A senior may have money or assets and an occasion presents itself for the scammer to take those assets.

Crimes of desperation:  Typically, this may happen when family members or friends are so desperate for money that they will do anything to get money.  An example may be where the exploiting family member or friend may come to believe that in return for personal care (actual or perceived), he or she is due monetary compensation.

Crimes of predation.  These crimes occur when trust is built for the intention of financial abuse later.  A relationship is established, either a personal relationship or as a trusted professional advisor.

A national organization comprised of law enforcement, older adults and community groups promotes adult safety by educating seniors and others about scams and other crimes against seniors.  According to the National Association of Triads, seniors are targeted for a variety of reasons as listed below:


Top Five Reasons Why Seniors are Targets of Scams

  1. Availability.  Seniors are seen as a target because they are retired, less mobile, and at home for calls.  Scammers can locate them during the day by calling or stopping by.
  2. Isolation.  Families move away and sometimes have little or no interaction with loved ones.  Some seniors don’t have others who can help with decisions.
  3. Loneliness.  Due to isolation, seniors’ friendships can be limited, and this can make them vulnerable to friendly visitors.
  4. Sickness.  Chronic health issues makes it difficult for seniors to maintain their homes and they rely on outside sources for assistance.  Unscrupulous workers can overcharge for simple jobs.
  5. Prosperity.  Scammers see seniors as a supply of wealth that may include homes, life savings and other assets.

In the case of older adults, a scammer may realize that the daily routine of a senior is not being monitored by loved ones and the senior may not realize that they are in jeopardy.  Therefore, it’s especially important for long distance caregivers to build a network of trusted  friends and neighbors to help monitor frequent calls and visits by strangers or others.

Were you or a family member a victim of a scam?  What do you do now to protect yourself?


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