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Seniors often targets of financial schemes

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Seniors are especially vulnerable to financial scams.

The Investor Protection Trust Elder Investor Fraud Survey, done in 2010, found 7.3 million seniors are being victimized by some type of financial fraud.

That is one out of five people over age 65.

This is estimated to add up to $2.9 billion per year.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that for every case that law enforcement knows about, there are 43 that they don't.

Single women age 80 to 89 are the most vulnerable.

There are several reasons why seniors are often the target of these thieves.

First, seniors own more assets.

Many people start to lose some of their cognitive ability as they age. Cognitive changes can happen slowly or rapidly. These are more than having a “senior moment.” Watch for signs in yourself, family and friends that their capacity is starting to change.

While everyone forgets some things, people who are starting cognitive issues regularly forget appointments, easily lose their train of thought and have trouble finding their way around familiar environments. If you notice changes like these, take extra precautions.

To help recognize these issues, the Investors Protective Trust created the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploration Program with Baylor College of Medicine.

Together, they are developing systems and training doctors and nurses to spot patients who might be at risk. This will probably be an area with increased emphasis.

Who are the people who take advantage of people?

One study said it is about 50 percent by strangers, 34 percent by family and friends, 12 percent by business and 4 percent Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

One area that seniors are often victimized involves home repair.

Some of the people who look all warm and fuzzy on television have terrible records with the Better Business Bureau.

Just last week, one contractor told me he had gotten sued by one of these guys because he did some electrical service for a customer for $700 instead of about $7,000 that the TV guy wanted. He claimed he had a contract.

You do not have to sign an estimate, and be careful if the contractor insists that you do.

Get several estimates or talk to a trusted source who will know if you are being quoted a fair price.

Local financial institutions have told me that they try to warn people if they spot potential fraud. Often times, the victim does not even want to believe it.

If someone sends you a check in the mail and wants you to keep part of it and send them your check for the balance, you are being scammed.

By the time that their check bounces, your check will already have been cashed, and you will be on the hook with your bank for the whole amount.

You cannot win a lottery that you did not enter.

Sometimes people are told to mail in a processing fee and big winnings will be coming their way.

Never give your Social Security number or bank account numbers to someone who called you. The government and banks already know your numbers and they will not ask for them. If you made the call, you may have to tell them to access certain information.

Be careful for identity theft.

Do not carry your SS card in your wallet or write your pin numbers down.

If you do not want to receive unsolicited credit cards applications, you can opt out at the credit bureau sites.

Shred any documents with sensitive information and make sure that your mail is removed promptly from the mail box.

Taking precaution before you have an incident can save you and your family a lot of grief.

I hope you have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.

Gary Boatman is a certified financial planner and local businessman who serves as president of the Monessen Chamber of Commerce.

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