The elderly are a largely targeted demographic in terms of consumer fraud. This type of financial crime may take several forms, including promises of free prizes or trinkets, the solicitation of sweepstakes companies, frequent phone calls from organizations claiming they’re able to recoup the senior citizen’s money that was fraudulently taken by someone else, and numerous other scams.

Elderly consumer fraud is the fastest growing form of elder abuse, and most states make elder financial abuse a crime. States also provide ways to assist victims in seeking justice.

How Can I Know If Someone Has Defrauded Me?

It can be difficult for senior citizens to know whether they’ve been defrauded. Scammers will often make lofty promises and assume a friend-type role. Promises of gifts, goods, or services—with no intent to satisfy the promise—are common. Other instances of elder consumer fraud include:

  • Fake Investments: Promises of unusually high returns in some type of investment.
  • Fraudulent Home and Automobile Repairs: Recommending repairs or home improvements that are unnecessary, or doing little work for too much pay.
  • Prizes and Sweepstakes: Telling the victim that he won some type of prize, then asking him to send money.
  • Telemarketing Scams: Frequent, sometimes threatening phone calls, pressuring the individual to buy something or send money.
  • Funeral, Health, and Life Insurance Fraud: Overselling policies, providing false coverage, and failing to satisfy policy coverage.
  • Fraudulent Loans and Mortgages: Selling loans that have unrealistic interest rates and hidden fees.
  • Mail Fraud: Soliciting potential victims by mailing bait and preying on those who respond.

What are Some Indicators of Fraud?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will often use the following techniques to defraud the elderly:

  • Telling a victim if they don’t act now, they will never have the opportunity to act again.
  • Requiring payment from the senior citizen in exchange for the prize or “free” gift that she has “won.”
  • The victim must put up a credit card or cash as a down payment prior to being allowed to consider its fine print.

Are There Any Consumer Fraud Laws That Protect the Elderly?

Federally, the Elder Justice Act creates greater coordination between state and federal agencies who handle elder abuse cases. The Act also increases reporting requirements amongst these agencies.

The majority of laws that protect the elderly from financial abuse are at the state level. For instance, in California, is it illegal for anyone to take or assist anyone in the taking of a senior’s personal or real property with the intent of defrauding the individual. California also allows treble damages, or the tripling of the amount of money awarded in an elder financial abuse case.

Other consumer fraud laws protect citizens by prohibiting telemarketers from calling if you are on the Do Not Call List, lying about information, calling after-hours, or withdrawing money from your account without express consent.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you or a family member has been victimized by acts of fraud, contact a consumer attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, help you build your case, and represent your best interests in court to recoup any damages that you may be owed.