Combating Senior Scams

Combating Senior Scams From ALFA In the last fiscal year, the United States Postal Inspection Service obtained more than 400 arrests and 410 convictions nationwide, and most of those schemes disproportionately targeted older Americans. Most of these schemes were related to foreign lottery/sweepstakes schemes, work-at-home scams and sweetheart scams. Illegal lottery fraudsters gain the trust of the victims by spending hours on the phone with them. The sweetheart scammers create male and female characters to entice potential victims, asking the to assist them in coming to the United States to meet. ‰ÛÏVictims are drawn in by these scammers because of the personal interaction which usually takes place over the phone,‰Û said Cynthia Mormon, acting inspector general in charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Detroit Division. Work-at-home scheme victims receive a solicitation by mail, email or respond to an online or print job ad. Fraudsters ‰ÛÏhire‰Û older Americans without an interview or background check to work as a ‰ÛÏpayment processor,‰Û who must deposit checks or money orders from the company to their own bank accounts then wire money to their employer. Additionally, the envelope stuffing scam requires the victim to pay a fee to obtain a starter packet to stuff envelopes at home. ‰ÛÏOlder Americans, the physically challenged and ‰Û÷shut-ins‰Ûª conveniently receive many of their purchases by mail,‰Û said Mormon, speaking at the Indiana State fairgrounds, Farm Bureau Building. ‰ÛÏSadly, that makes them easy prey for mail fraud operators. The problem is compounded by operators who sell the names and addresses of their victims to other criminal elements, resulting in the repeat victimization of many older citizens.‰Û She noted that victims are often reluctant to tell anyone they have been victimized so it‰Ûªs important for friends and family to know the signs of someone in the midst of potential victimization. Mormon offered these helpful tips:

  • When stacks of mail offering lottery tickets for sale or contest information are discovered, community members are encouraged to inquire about these mailings with their loved ones.
  • Relatives could volunteer to help older family members balance their checkbooks and ask about any questionable checks or sudden large withdrawals.
  • Offer to review credit card statements.
  • Offer to review mail to see if they are receiving unsolicited lottery offers.
  • Reiterate that no legitimate lottery requires payment before winnings are awarded.
  • Anyone who has received deceptive solicitations should place their phone number in the Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222.