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Take precautions to protect loved ones from fraud

Friday, May 7, 2021
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“The first thing I tell people is that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” Grambling Police Chief Tommy Clark, Jr. said.

Someone calls you in the middle of the day and says that you won a sweepstakes and need you to claim your $1 million prize. However, there is a catch to winning. The person on the other end of the phone says that you must pay $50,000 for the taxes on your prize money.

They tell you that you must go to Walmart and buy gift cards to put the money on and call them with the numbers on the back of the card.

If you have received a call like this and performed the tasks asked of you, then you were the unfortunate victim of a scam. These scams are some of the worst situations when it comes to financial security, especially for more seasoned citizens.

They happen when victims least expect them because the person on the phone seems to have all their pertinent information to make the request sound official. They use information that can be found through a simple internet search or directly from the target via social media. They can gain access through mailers for certain items or services that a person uses regularly. On some occasions, the person defrauding you could be a close relative or friend.

According to an article done by Fishman Investment Fraud Lawyers, a New Orleans based firm, in 2019 between one and two million citizens 65 years of age or older have been mistreated, exploited, or injured by their caregiver. About 90% of the perpetrators are family members and/or caregivers to the victim.

In a report done by Comparitech, it found that there are an estimated 7.86 million cases of elder fraud that occur in the country annually, causing $148 billion in losses. In Louisiana, the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs found that during the 2019 fiscal year there were 638 cases of elderly financial exploitation.

These stark numbers are hardly even scratching the sur face, mainly because 10,000 people turn 65 years-old every day in the U.S. while about one in five are financially exploited. Many times there are more cases, but they are never reported. There could be a litany of reasons why an elderly victim would not report financial exploitation to anyone, but the recurring reason is embarrassment.

“People are embarrassed that they have been duped,” said Addison K. Goff, a partner at Goff & Goff Attorneys. “You can’t be embarrassed about it. You have to report.”

Goff specializes in elder law and has seen firsthand how damaging elder fraud can be.

“The senior is not the only one affected,” Goff said. “Seniors who fall victim to these scams take on an average loss of $120,000. The family members or caregivers have an average loss of $36,000 because they have to help the elderly person who has lost their money.”

To combat this troubling problem, the U.S. Department of Justice started the Elder Justice Initiative and Congress passed the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) that was signed into law in October 2017. The act’s purpose is to increase the federal government’s focus on preventing elder exploitation and abuse. Through the EJI, the DOJ has overseen and participated in hundreds of criminal and civil enforcement actions entailing misconduct that was specific to vulnerable seniors.