|Senior Citizen Fraud Protection|
The Frankenmuth Police Department intends to make seniors fully aware of the many scams often perpetuated against them by con artists. They help seniors avoid becoming victims of consumer fraud, emphasizing that the most effective way to attack this problem is through prevention.
Senior citizens in the county and across the state are easy targets for con artists. Seniors own more than half of all financial assets in America. At the same time, they are vulnerable. While people over 65 comprise 11 percent of the U.S. population, they represent roughly 30 percent of scam victims, according to a U.S. Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care. As a result, seniors lose billions of unrecoverable dollars each year to fraud.
The disproportionate victimization of older people in connection with consumer fraud is partly attributable to generation and economic factors. Seniors grew up in an era when business was done on a handshake. Further, a study by the American Association of Retired Persons has found that older people are quicker to believe promises and slower to take steps to protect their legal rights. Since seniors often save money for retirement, they often have money on hand.
Although most seniors in the county are not poor, many have saved for retirement through long years of work. In fact, Social Security is the main source of income for a majority of older residents in the county. With fixed monthly Social Security or pension checks, it is nearly impossible to replenish bank accounts emptied as a result of fraud.
There are many common practices con artists use to defraud seniors, but most are a variation of these three: telemarketing, mail and door-to-door sales. While many scams involve both mailings and telemarketing, some use all three methods. For example, many con artists will generate leads by mailing a survey to gauge interest in a product or service. Consumers who show interest, usually by returning a postcard, are then contacted by telephone or a traveling salesperson who makes the sales pitch.
Below are examples of current consumer scams you should be aware of. Study the examples and learn the warning signs of a con artist at work. This knowledge will help to thwart activities of con artists.
- Home Improvement Schemes: The home improvement worker may drive a car or truck through a neighborhood where seniors live looking for residents outside of their home. The worker offers to pave the driveway, repair the roof, or paint the house with supplies "left over from another job". In some cases, services may be offered through ads, fliers, or handouts. The work is then completed quickly and is often shoddy. A warning sign to the consumer is when the worker announces a serious problem. You should also be aware of any offer that is good only for that particular day, a demand of cash payment, or a refusal by the home improvement worker to provide references.
Please note that if you are confronted with such suspicious behavior, you should contact the Police immediately. Also, before signing a contract for home repairs, get a second opinion and take at least 24 hours to consider the purchase.
- Living Trusts: A living trust is designed to allow the maker to identify his or her heirs and to share with them money or other possessions upon death of the maker. Often seniors are targeted by unsolicited visits, phone calls, and mail. In addition, a number of seniors are targeted by unsolicited visits from untrained salespeople who tell them they need a living will or trust. The salesperson will offer membership into an organization that falsely alleges that probate can be avoided through a living trust.
The salesperson will often emphasize that a living trust avoids inheritance tax to heirs. The membership organization will often offer prepaid legal benefits, medical benefits, and other services that are grossly exaggerated and often are not honored when needed. A warning sign to seniors regarding this type of scam is when membership offers "peace of mind benefits" that seem too good to be true. If the benefits seem too good to be true, they probably are not true. Contact an attorney to have a living trust drafted. Do not rely on door-to-door sales or accepted unsolicited offers by telephone or through the mail.
- Auto Repair: Auto repair scams upon seniors are lucrative for the con artists. Several characteristics of auto repair scams are when the facility does not give written estimates or a completion date for the repair. Further, the facility does not make replaced parts available and performs repairs not contracted for. When the senior citizen goes to pick up the automobile, the repair person presents a bill much larger than expected. The repair person then holds the auto until the bill is paid in full. Be aware of warning signals that may help you from becoming a victim of auto repair scams.
If a facility refuses to warranty the work or fails to offer a work or a satisfaction guarantee to the customer, you should steer away from that facility. Another warning signal is if the repair facility fails to get authorization to use rebuilt parts as opposed to new parts or if there is a constant delay in returning the car.
HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A VICTIM
Senior citizens are an integral part of the community. Through education and awareness, seniors can be empowered to use reasonable precautions in avoiding con games and scams.
- DON'T discuss your personal finances with strangers.
- DON'T withdraw cash at the suggestion of someone you don't know.
- DON'T accept that a person is official or legitimate without checking first.
- DON'T believe stories that sound too good to be true, invariably they're not.
- DON'T be embarrassed to report that you have been victimized.
- DO call the police if approached with any story similar to those described in this article.
- DO testify in court, if asked, to help stop this kind of crime.
- DO tell your friends and neighbors about bunco schemes.
If you suspect you are a victim of fraud, contact the Frankenmuth Police Department Immediately.
| Frankenmuth Police Department
240 W. Genesee, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
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