Crimes and scams targeting seniors

The fix-it man needs to make a hardware store run before starting the job. So you give him money for materials, and never see him again.

Or there’s this needy child whose insurance didn’t cover the operation for the new kidney, so you donate cash – only to discover there is no kid, no kidney, no nothing. Just an enterprising thief preying on sympathies.

In person, by phone, on the internet – the methods of ripping off unsuspecting victims are as varied as the set-ups. Some scams are deceptively simple, while others revolve around fantastically detailed ploys.

Your parents likely warned you, again and again, not to be hoodwinked. Now, as they get older, your parents are among those most likely targeted, according to the National Council on Aging.

Sometimes, the crime involves an accomplice literally looting the house while the con is outside with the homeowner, reviewing work to be done. A basic deterrent? Lock the house when stepping out. And close the garage door!

In the same vein, don’t leave the door open for someone to steal your identity or financial information over the phone or on the internet, where phishing schemes and fraud are rampant.

These crimes can be a form of elder abuse, according to the Kentucky Adult Protective Services, which reports that an estimated 63 percent of alleged perpetrators are related to their elderly victims. Sadly, the culprits are most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others, the agency reports.

One out of every five citizens over the age of 65 has been victimized in a financial swindle, according to the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions. To check if a financial dealer or investment is registered, or to file a complaint, call 800-223-2579 or go to their website at www.kfi.ky.gov.  They also have info on upcoming senior crime prevention events.

Victims often are embarrassed, and prosecution can be difficult, which may explain why only about one of every 25 cases of financial exploitation is reported, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. They urge consumers to watch for these potential “red flags:”

     ● Special guarantees or promises of no risk with high rewards or returns.

     ● High pressure, “cash only” or “limited time only” offers.

     ● Offers for YOU only

     ●  Hand-shake deals, with promises to complete the paperwork later.

To be sure, sometimes there really may be a free lunch. But be warned: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

–Mickey Gramig