Criminals Might be Ripping off Billions From the Country’s Seniors


portriat of elderly man Photo by MilanMarkovic78 - yayimages.com

If we talk about the demographic severely affected by frauds and scams, senior citizens may top the list. Preying on the innocent elderly is probably the most abhorrent white collar crime in existence today, perpetuated by loathsome individuals who would probably pull off one of these scams with their mothers if they had the chance. From telemarketing to online phishing scams, all tried and tested fraudulent tools are used to lure these senior citizens into vicious traps of lies and deceit.

In this article, we will discuss some real-life cases of senior fraud.

Why are Seniors an Easy Target?

Many reasons can be given as why seniors are the favorite target of scammers. Let’s have a look.

Gullibility Comes With Age

It is a general perception that older people become more gullible. This observation is now also substantiated by scientific studies. There is a brain center called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is responsible to control the critical thinking of beliefs and doubts. According to one research, its performance deteriorates as we age.

Deterioration of this critical brain activity results in the gullibility and innocence that we often see in many older people. One of the downsides of this development is that it becomes difficult for them to spot even a very noticeable scam.

Seclusion and Inactivity Makes

The increased lonesomeness for many seniors and reduction in productivity also makes them weak. They bereft of human interaction and it makes a scammer’s job easier. Telephone pitchers exploit this fateful aspect of old age very effectively. By talking to them with compassion and by patiently listening to the grievances of lonely elders, tele-scammers earn their trust in no time to abuse it later.

Unfamiliarity with Technology

Baby boomers and their elders may have adjusted themselves with the technological setting of today, but they are still not fully accustomed to its intricacies. Scammers are very well aware of this fact. Therefore, they try to use this lack of technological knowledge against them. When even millennials are not spared from online scams, it’s a walk in the park for skilled scammers to rip off seniors through such scams.

Financial Strains Can Play a Part

For leading a good post-retirement life, money is one of the basic needs. Sadly, amid all the state-run programs for senior assistance, many elderly citizens face financial crunch time. In this situation, enticing them through financial incentives increases the chances of scammers to succeed in their malevolent schemes.

Case Histories

To understand the predicament faced by seniors, let’s have a look at some of the real-life cases the elderly have subjected to in recent years.

The Tragic Case of Marjorie Jones

Marjorie Jones was an 83-year-old woman living alone in her two-story Louisiana apartment. She was living a financially independent life before the sinister sweepstake scammers called her. The scammers told her that she had won a sweepstake lottery and to get the prize money she had to pay a ‘nominal’ fee that was required for the clearance of the prize. However, the demand for fees didn’t end after the first installment of payment. The scammers constantly asked for money for different reasons and she continued to pay them.

She exhausted all her savings, took a reverse mortgage and sold her insurance policy to pay these thieves. Her family started to suspect something was wrong when she began to ask for money from them. By the time they had reached the right conclusion, it was already too late.

After realizing she had been conned for all her life savings, Jones committed suicide. When her family reached her apartment, they could only find wire receipts everywhere. Jones’ caller ID was also filled by dozens of unknown numbers.

The case of Marjorie Jones tells us that isolation, financial needs, and frailties can make the obvious scams deadly.

Exploiting Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent type of dementia and one of the leading causes of memory loss and deterioration of cognitive abilities in elderly individuals. A fraud took place in Oregon where an elderly couple was scammed for $100,000 and Alzheimer's played an important role in it.

According to Bente Kongsore, an Oregon-based accountant, both her parents (in their 80s) were living a regular old age life when an assistant manager (Susan Paiz) from a local bank gained their trust and then systematically stole money from them.

To hide the theft, the bank manager told the couple that Bent’s father, an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient, gave her money to put in some investment that didn’t work out. This financial setback aggravated the mental health of Bente’s father as he started to question his decision. Meanwhile, the couple’s relationship got strained due to the false rationale of Paiz.

Susan Paiz was finally caught by diligent investigators by the local senior abuse unit. By the time Susan was given 10-month prison sentence, Bente’s parents had departed from this world. Bente believes that justice was not served adequately. He feels that the sentence only accounts for the financial embezzlement, and not for the emotional and mental trauma it had caused to her elderly parents and many would agree with him.

It’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Both cases that we have discussed have some horrendous details, but there is more. According to an evaluation of the National Adult Protective Services Association, only one out of every 44 senior exploitation cases are reported. Therefore, all those numbers regarding the money involved in senior scams might be much bigger than what is usually estimated.

It’s a collective responsibility of the entire society to protect seniors from the evil shenanigans of scammers. Similarly, seniors should consult with people they trust unconditionally before making any major financial decision. A seasoned legal counsel will also be of great help to make sure that seniors remain safe from scams.

In our next article on senior fraud, we will explore the procedures that can be taken to help avoid elderly citizens from becoming a victim of these vicious scams.


Posted On July 21, 2018