Elder fraud is a type of scam that specifically targets older adults. Elder fraud can take many different forms, but all share the common goal of exploiting seniors for financial gain. While anyone can fall victim to elder fraud, seniors are often seen as easy targets because they may be more trusting or have less experience with scams. Let’s look at elder fraud awareness: scams to watch.
Rising Concerns and Unreported Cases of Elder Fraud
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, victims age 60 and above were robbed of $1.68 billion in 2021 as a result of fraudulent activities. That’s up from $1.14 billion last year. Let’s look at elder fraud awareness: scams to watch.
Elder abuse reports are on the rise in Florida, with California, Texas, New York and Virginia rounding out the top five states with complaints from seniors. A number of studies over the last decade however reveal that the vast majority of elder fraud cases go unreported, so the real numbers are likely much higher.
Elder fraud schemes target some of this country’s most vulnerable people — devastating them financially and often emotionally,” said Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal and Cyber Division.
As a result of sophisticated white collar crimes, the Washington Field Office of the FBI launched an Elder Fraud Awareness Campaign to share information and educate the public on various types of elder scams via social media.
“The FBI and our partners are committed to educating older Americans and their caretakers about these heartbreaking scams to prevent them from happening. You can only protect yourself and your loved ones if you know how to recognize—and report—fraud.”
Common Types of Elder Fraud
Elder Investment Scams
Elder fraudsters will often target seniors by offering them fake investments or promising high returns with little to no risk. These scams can be difficult to spot, as the criminals may use false documents and create believable stories to back up their claims. Criminals use urgency to pressure victims into making a decision, which may prevent the victim from doing further research or speaking with someone else about the investment.
Identity Theft of Seniors
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your permission in order to commit fraud. Criminals can obtain your personal information through a variety of methods, including dumpster diving, phishing emails, and stealing your mail. They may then use your personal information to open new accounts, file for tax refunds, or make purchases in your name.
Telemarketing Scams Involving Timeshare
In this type of scam, telemarketers will contact seniors and tell them that they have won a free vacation or prize from the mall. To collect the prize, victims are told they must attend a timeshare presentation. During the presentation, seniors are sometimes pressured into buying a timeshare over the course of many hours. Unable to rely on verbal representations, senior consumers are left with confusing, lengthy documents prepared by timeshare companies. The documents often contain legal language, disclosures and fees that last decades. As a result, many seniors end up purchasing a timeshare they cannot afford and do not even want.
Timeshare Resale Schemes Evolving
When it comes to timeshare resales, fraudsters have various methods to make themselves seem legitimate. Some design websites that mimic real companies’ websites; others create fraudulent stamps or seals of banks. Some scammers even give victims official-looking documents, including contracts and notarized title paperwork, making it appear genuine and binding.
Fraudsters target timeshare owners and tell them that they have a buyer lined up and ready to pay top dollar for the property. The fraudster will then ask for an upfront fee to cover closing costs, taxes, or other transfer fees associated with the sale.
In other timeshare resale schemes, scammers pose as representatives of timeshare companies and make unsolicited contact with owners of timeshare properties. Some promise to pay owners for their timeshares, while others claim owners are entitled to valuable points in connection with their timeshares—Points that they offer to liquidate in exchange for a commission.
Protecting Elders From Timeshare Resale Schemes
The FBI recommends that people do their homework before getting involved in a timeshare resale transaction. Be suspicious of unsolicited offers, especially if the caller pressures you to act quickly or asks for personal information upfront.
Timeshare owners should be alert if they receive unsolicited calls, emails, letters, or texts about their timeshares. To avoid timeshare resale scams you should consider this:
- Research resellers before you decide to work with them and deal only with licensed real estate agents and brokers. Ask if the reseller’s agents are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located.
- Don’t sign a contract until you know the details of its terms and conditions, e.g., the services the reseller will perform, the fees you will have to pay, etc.
- Beware if a representative asks you to pay money up-front in order to obtain funds or property to which they claim you are entitled or if they request you wire money in connection with your timeshare.
If you are a senior citizen or know someone who is, it’s important to be aware of elder fraud and timeshare abuse. If you believe you have been a victim of elder fraud, contact the FBI immediately and file a complaint on IC3.gov.
In some circumstances, you may need to seek legal counsel to protect your rights and interests as a timeshare owner. Contact an experienced consumer protection attorney to learn more about timeshare resale scams.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice for any particular person or situation. Follow Finn Law Group on Twitter.
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