Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Protecting Elders from Fraud

by Zac Bissonnette

A piece in the Sunday New York Times tells the sad story of Richard Guthrie, a 92-year-old man who was defrauded of his life savings through an elaborate scheme perpetrated by criminals posing as telemarketers. These evil people take advantage of elders like Mr. Guthrie, who are particularly susceptible to fraud because they may be too trusting or lonely, and in dire financial straits. In Guthrie's case, he was living on the $800 per month he receives from Social Security. He passed the time since his wife passed away by entering sweepstakes contests, and the promoters frequently, and knowingly, sold his personal information to unscrupulous people.

Elder fraud strikes me as the most evil of white-collar crimes, and I did some looking around on the internet for resources for understanding and preventing the financial abuse of the elderly.

I have a copy of ex-con turned private investigator Barry Minkow's Frauds Gone Wild: Protecting Yourself from Elder Abuse. The DVD provides an entertaining look at the psychology of this crime, as well as offering an acronym that provides some suggestions for how to avoid being taken. While it strikes me as expensive at $17.99, it's a must for senior centers or church groups. Watch it with friends.

Fraud.org also has a nice section on elder fraud and telemarketing fraud, as well as Five Tips for Protecting Elders from Telemarketing Fraud. The Department of Justice also has a piece on why seniors are so vulnerable to fraud, and how to prevent it.

If you have elderly parents, or perhaps a neighbor, I strongly recommend reading through these materials, and discussing these issues with them. I had a nice talk about it with my grandmother today.

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