For this week’s Tuesday’s Tips, the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is offering guidance to help prevent and protect seniors from elder abuse. Financial fraud and exploitation is one of the most prevalent types of elder abuse, and recent estimates show that the annual loss of victims of financial abuse is assessed to be at least $36.5 billion dollars. Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.
“Older adults are a vital part of our families and communities, and unfortunately this beloved population is also often the target of scammers and abusers,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “Our Division of Consumer Protection wants to help you protect your older adult family members and friends, and these tips will help you spot a scam or abusive situation and stop it before it causes irreparable harm.”
New York State Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen said, "Financial scams targeting older adults are becoming all the more prevalent and sophisticated. Always verify with official sources before taking any action that might potentially compromise your private information and offer predators with a window to access your funds or fraudulently make transactions in your name. Family, friends and caregivers have an important role to play as well. Be aware of any changes in a loved one's financial behavior or banking and spending patterns. Remember that local help is available through offices for the aging and our community partners by calling NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871."
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave said, “We thank the Division of Consumer Protection for bringing awareness to this critically important, yet sometimes overlooked, issue. OCFS’ Bureau of Adult Services, along with our statewide local departments of social services, work tirelessly to protect New York’s vulnerable adults from all forms of abuse, which includes violence, neglect and financial exploitation. Social isolation, the aging process and relying on others for their medical needs can increase the likelihood of victimization for seniors. This is about human rights, and it’s essential for families and the community to be aware of the dangers and risks that some of New York’s elder population face and to report any possible instance of abuse.”
June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and June is also World Elder Abuse Awareness Month, which highlight the ongoing criminal tactics targeting older adults.
Elder abuse occurs when an adult over the age of 60 is abused, neglected or financially exploited by someone. Specifically, it includes physical, sexual, emotional/psychological abuse in addition to financial exploitation, abandonment and neglect. Abuse can happen anywhere, including in an older person’s home, a family member’s home, a nursing home or an assisted living community. Financial abuse occurs when the improper and unauthorized use of an older adult’s money, benefits, belongings, property or assets are illegally used without their permission.
Older adults are also often the targets of consumer fraud scams. Scammers prey on
older adults, who are viewed as vulnerable and lonely, easy prey with readily available cash. Some of the most common older adult scams include:
- Medical Device Scam: Unsolicited prerecorded messages, known as “robocalls,” offering free medical alert devices by providing an address and credit card information.
- Grandparent Scam: Scammers call or email asking for money while impersonating a beloved grandchild who is in some kind of trouble.
- Ghosting Scam: Identity thieves obtain personal information about deceased persons from obituaries, funeral homes, hospitals, stolen death certificates and online web sites and use this information to establish credit and open accounts, take out loans, receive benefits, or even collect tax refunds filed under the stolen identity.
- Jury Duty Scam: Scammers pretending to be law enforcement officers or court officials contact individuals to inform them that they have failed to report to jury duty and must pay a fine by credit card to avoid an arrest.
- Funeral Notification Scam: Scammers send emails deceptively informing recipients of an upcoming farewell ceremony in remembrance of a friend or loved one, and upon clicking a link provided in the email, victims are sent to a third-party website where malicious software is downloaded so scammers can gain access to the user’s information.
- Sweepstakes Scam: Scammers entice consumers with various prize offers and then ask you to share personal information or pay a fee to enter the sweepstakes.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Imposter Scam: Phone scammers impersonate IRS agents and demand immediate payment of overdue taxes from victims via debit card or wire transfer to avoid being arrested.
- Free Grant Scam: Scammers promise fraudulent grants in print or over the phone and ask for bank account and routing numbers.
For more information about how you can recognize the most common senior scams or for more scam prevention tips, download The Division of Consumer Protection’s informative Senior Anti-Fraud Education (S.A.F.E.) brochure. If you have parents or elderly family members, take the time to explain these scams to them.
Here are a few tips to follow if you or someone you know receives a call or email you believe to be a scam:
- RESIST the urge to act immediately - no matter how dramatic the story is.
- VERIFY the caller’s identity - ask questions that a stranger couldn’t answer. Check with a family member to see if the information is true.
- DO NOT send cash, gift cards or money transfers. Once the scammer gets the money - it’s gone!
- DO NOT give your personal banking account information by email or over the phone OR log into bank accounts as directed by the caller (scammers can steal your information using screen mirroring).
During World Elder Abuse Month, the Division of Consumer Protection is also urging New Yorkers to make a plan to help protect senior family members and friends from financial abuse, given its prevalence. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a guide to preventing elder financial abuse with four important steps:
- Prevent – Educate yourself, your loved ones, and your community.
- Recognize – Spot the warning signs and take action.
- Record – Document what you observe.
- Report – Tell the appropriate authorities so they can investigate and help.
There are resources to help if you are concerned about an individual, friend or loved one who may be experiencing elder abuse, including the non-emergency helpline at (844) 746-6905 and the Adult Protective Services hotline at 1-844-697-3505 to report abuse.
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.