Unveiling Elder Fraud: Safeguarding Older Adults from Financial Exploitation

At Peterson & Associates, we understand the importance of protecting seniors from Elder Fraud. This type of financial crime is committed against an elderly person or really any individual that has diminished physical and/or mental capacity. A perpetrator may use false pretenses to gain access to an elderly person’s personal information, funds, property, or assets for their own benefit.

I am Pete Peterson, the founder of Peterson & Associates, alongside my lovely wife, Alexis. Our company specializes in helping businesses navigate the digital landscape and leverage the internet’s power for their benefit. One day, I received a digital distress call from Donn Liston, a long-time Alaska journalist. His business’s digital platform had been savagely hacked, and he was left feeling betrayed by someone he had trusted to set up his website. Instead of granting him ownership and control, this person had hijacked it, as part of a complex and on-going case of elder fraud.

Donn had simple aspirations—he wanted a platform to write instructional stories, and he had accumulated over 120 such stories on his new and improved platform: DonnListon.co. Unfortunately, he hadn’t paid much attention to the technical aspects and never expected this person to act maliciously. But sometimes, even those who seem trustworthy can surprise us with their criminal activities, especially when they execute them so carelessly.

I have a unique story of my own: I was home-schooled by my mother, who also happened to be a martial arts instructor. Growing up, I was fortunate to have her guidance and support. My journey into the world of technology began when I created my mother’s Karate website. Soon, parents who brought their kids to her school started asking for websites as well.

My fascination with technology deepened when, as a young student, I received a computer from IDEA Homeschool. Plugging it into our dial-up connection to start my coursework, disaster struck. The computer was instantly infected with a virus called MS Blaster, crashing a critical service and displaying a message warning me that I had limited time to fix it before it would reboot again. Determined to find a solution, I stumbled upon an web page by Steve Gibson of the Gibson Research Corporation. His guidance helped me patch my system and sparked my passion for information security. I started following Gibson on Security Now and became a fan of the now-defunct Tech TV. Over the years, I closely observed the Internet’s evolution, from the rise of the PayPal Mafia to the increasing popularity of instant messaging platforms.

Recently as a young adult, I was particularly interested in the various websites publishing news and information about Alaska. It was during my monitoring of Donn Liston’s blogspot that I recognized his digital distress call. Now, fate brought Donn and me together. When I heard about his hack, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who would target DONN LISTON?” His blog is one of the best in Alaska in terms of content, and I knew I had to step up and assist him.

Setting up domains and establishing a credible online presence is something our company excels at. If Donn had come to us initially, he likely wouldn’t have fallen victim to the scam. You see, it’s not just about creating a website; it’s about ensuring its security and protecting it from cyber threats. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Donn’s experience taught me the importance of advocating for security measures of online platforms. It had never crossed his mind that someone would try to steal his business’s name. All he wanted to do was share his knowledge of Alaska with the world!

I delved into the investigation, meticulously tracking the hacker’s footsteps. It didn’t take long for me to discover traces of unauthorized access to Donn’s Facebook account. I documented the evidence, securing it to expose the truth. Bill Borden was the mastermind behind the scam—a con artist who thought he could manipulate innocent individuals for his own gain. Together, Donn and I were able to regain control of his business and bring Bill Borden to justice in small claims court.

Donn’s traumatic experience propelled me to share his story. I wanted to highlight the importance of cybersecurity for everyone and the need for individuals to take control of their digital presence. Through Peterson & Associates Inc., we empower businesses to build robust and secure websites. We provide guidance on establishing digital platforms, protecting against cyber threats, and driving growth through effective digital marketing strategies. Our mission is to merge big-tech capabilities with small-town values, creating a safe and prosperous digital environment for businesses and people alike.

Donn’s experience wasn’t just about him. It was a wake-up call for everyone. The Internet is a powerful tool, capable of either empowering or endangering us. With the right knowledge and the support of professionals like us, you can navigate the digital world with confidence and security. Donn’s story didn’t end with a tragedy. Instead, he found solace in knowing justice prevailed and emerged from the ordeal with a renewed sense of purpose.

Donn continues to educate and inform his readers through his writing, using the platform hosted by us to raise awareness about the risks of elder fraud and the importance of digital security. So, if you find yourself in a cyber-crisis, know that heroes like myself and Alexis are here to defend and protect your digital presence! Trust in our expertise, and together, we can harness the power of the Internet without fear, seizing its vast potential for growth and prosperity.

Elder Fraud can range from minor cons to major scams, and as such, it is important that older adults are aware of potential frauds targeted at them. As part of our commitment to protecting seniors, we offer resources and advice below on how to spot Elder Fraud so that you can protect yourself or your loved ones from this type of exploitation. It is important for seniors to be aware of these types of scams and understand how to identify them in order to protect themselves from becoming victims!

Common Types of Elder Fraud

Elder Fraud
  • Identity theft is another type of Elder Fraud that is particularly dangerous for older adults, as it can lead to financial loss and other serious consequences. To protect yourself from identity theft, it is important to be cautious when sharing personal information online or in person, and to keep all of your financial information safe and secure.
  • Medicare and healthcare fraud is a serious problem that affects many older adults. Scammers may offer free or cut-rate services to lure seniors into providing their personal information, such as Social Security numbers or Medicare cards. They can then use this information to bill for services never received and commit other forms of fraud. It is important to be aware of any unsolicited offers related to healthcare services or treatments.
  • Tech support scams are a form of Elder Fraud that may target older adults who are not as familiar with technology. Scammers often pose as tech support representatives in order to gain access to an older adult’s personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
  • Grandparent scams typically involves a caller pretending to be a grandchild in distress and requesting immediate financial assistance. It is important for seniors to verify the caller’s identity before sending money, as this scam can lead to serious consequences.
  • Romance scams target older adults who are looking for companionship or romantic relationships. It is important to be aware of scams on any online platform or dating websites that have unsolicited messages. Scammers will build emotional connections and eventually ask for money for various reasons, such as travel expenses or medical emergencies.
  • Home Equity Scams targeting older adults who own their homes by offering fraudulent schemes to extract equity or take ownership of the property. Examples include reverse mortgage scams or predatory lending practices. Elderly homeowners should always be diligent in researching lenders before agreeing to any deals, and never sign anything without a lawyer’s approval. Additionally, they should always protect their personal information such as bank account numbers or Social Security numbers.
  • Charity Scams are increasing in prevalence, preying on the generosity of older adults who are looking to make a difference in the world. These scams involve soliciting donations for fake charities or causes, using high-pressure tactics or emotional appeals to convince victims to part with their hard-earned money. Unfortunately, these donations never reach the intended recipients and instead end up in the hands of scammers. It’s important for individuals to thoroughly research any organization before making a donation.
  • One of the most heinous scams out there is the fake investment opportunity scheme, which preys on vulnerable older adults who are seeking high returns on their investments. Scammers often use Ponzi schemes or pyramid schemes to deceive their victims, promising large payouts in nonexistent or fraudulent ventures. These scammers may even pose as financial advisors in order to gain access to an older adult’s personal information. Unfortunately, many people fall victim to these scams because they seem legitimate and offer the promise of a much-needed financial boost. It’s crucial to be highly skeptical of any investment opportunity that offers returns that seem too good to be true.
  • Social Security scams are becoming a prevalent problem targeting older adults in recent years. These scams often involve impersonating Social Security Administration representatives in an attempt to deceive individuals into providing their personal information or making payments. Scammers may claim there is an urgent issue with the victim’s Social Security benefits and demand immediate action or payment. It’s important to recognize that these scammers are preying on individuals using fear tactics. Social Security Administration representatives will never call you.
  • It is important for older adults to be aware of sweepstakes, lottery and inheritance scams, as they are becoming increasingly prevalent. Scammers will often contact individuals and falsely notify them that they have won a large sum of money or inherited a fortune from a distant relative. These false promises of winning a prize are in order to trick an older adult into sending money or sharing their personal information. These scams typically require victims to pay fees or taxes upfront before they can receive their supposed winnings or inheritance.
  • As wonderful as traveling can be, it’s important to be aware of potential scams that can prey on unsuspecting vacationers. One particular scam involves offering alluring vacation packages or travel deals exclusively to older adults and requiring payment upfront, without delivering the promised services. Although it’s disheartening to think about, travel scams like this are all too common in today’s world. However, by staying vigilant and informed, travelers can avoid falling victim to these deceitful tactics. Remember to always research travel companies and read reviews before making any payments or commitments.
  • Door-to-door and home improvement scams: Exploiting older adults by offering unnecessary services or charging exorbitant fees. Seniors should always be wary of any unsolicited offers for home repairs or services, and never agree to something without proper research. They should also get multiple bids from different companies before committing to a service, and avoid providing payment until after the work is completed and inspected.
  • Telemarketing scams are a growing problem that affects many individuals across the country. Scammers often use persuasive tactics to convince older adults that they are legitimate telemarketers offering quality products or services. However, in reality, these offers are often either non-existent or of extremely poor quality. It is important to be aware of these tactics and to know how to recognize telemarketing scams to protect yourself and your loved ones. By understanding the signs of a scam, you can avoid falling victim to these unscrupulous actors and ensure your financial security.
  • Internet and email scams targeting older adults remain a growing concern, with phishing emails, fraudulent websites, and pop-up ads designed to trick victims into revealing personal information or making fraudulent purchases. These scams often appear legitimate, with professional-looking websites and persuasive sales pitches. Unfortunately, many seniors fall prey to these types of scams, losing significant amounts of money in the process.

Elder fraud hurts our communities most valuable members

Elder fraud can inflict considerable emotional, financial, and psychological scars on older adults. The impact of this type of deception can have lasting consequences, ranging from depleted life savings to increased debt and debt collection activities. Such occurrences can also lead to rapid and extreme deterioration of mental health, including anxiety and depression. In addition to the financial damage caused by elder fraud, there is an erosion of trust that can make older people feel vulnerable, isolated, and powerless. Ultimately, the impact of elder fraud on older people can have severe consequences for their quality of life and wellbeing, and it is important for families, communities, and regulatory bodies to recognize the gravity of this issue and take steps to prevent it.

Warning Signs and Red Flags of Elder Fraud

  • Unsolicited phone calls or emails with promises of prizes or investments.
  • Requests for personal information, such as Social Security numbers or bank account details.
  • Pressure to make immediate decisions or payments.
  • Requests for payment via unusual methods, such as gift cards or wire transfers.
  • Poor grammar or spelling in communications, indicating potential scams.
  • Unfamiliar or unverified individuals offering services or products.
  • Unexpected changes in financial accounts or suspicious transactions.

As we age, we become more vulnerable to various scams and fraud. These criminals prey on the vulnerability of our senior citizens to gain access to their finances and personal information. Elder fraud is a growing concern and it is important that everyone takes steps to prevent it. Here are some practical tips and strategies that could protect older adults from falling victim to fraudsters and keep their finances safe.

Practical tips and strategies to protect ourselves:

Elder fraud is a genuine concern and it’s something that we should all take seriously. There are some practical tips that could protect older adults from this problem, such as staying informed about common scams, being cautious with personal information, promoting skepticism towards unsolicited offers or requests for money, encouraging the use of strong and unique passwords, recommending trusted sources for financial advice or services, and emphasizing the importance of discussing financial matters. These tips can help prevent scams and keep older adults’ finances safe.

Stay Informed about Common Scams and Warning Signs – It is important to stay aware of common scams specific to elder fraud. There are various types of scams like fake charities, telemarketing scams, and phishing emails. Being mindful and staying informed can help individuals identify these scams and not become a victim. Some warning signs to watch out for include unsolicited phone calls or emails asking for personal or financial information or promising unrealistic rewards or prizes.

Be Cautious with Personal Information and Avoid Sharing It Unnecessarily – Personal information, including social security number, credit card information, and bank account details are prized possessions for scammers. It is crucial to be cautious with this information and avoid sharing it unnecessarily. Avoid giving out sensitive information over the phone or email unless you can verify who the person is. Always ask questions if something seems too good to be true and try to avoid providing too much personal information.

Promote Skepticism Towards Unsolicited Offers or Requests for Money – Elder fraudsters can be very convincing and believable. They often rely on the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality of their victims. Therefore, it is essential to be skeptical towards unsolicited offers or requests for money. Always double-check the information and never feel pressured by forceful or pushy demands.

Encourage the Use of Strong, Unique Passwords and Regular Monitoring of Financial Accounts – Strong and unique passwords can minimize the risk of data breaches or identity theft. Furthermore, monitoring financial accounts regularly can help you spot any suspicious activity before it’s too late. Check bank statements frequently and always notify the bank immediately if you see any unauthorized activity.

Recommend Trusted Sources for Financial Advice or Services – When it comes to managing finances, it is important to work with trusted sources. Reliability and authenticity are key features to look for when seeking financial advice or services. Avoid working with unknown individuals who promote high returns or quick profits. Instead, look for licensed or regulated firms offering legitimate financial services.

Emphasize the Importance of Discussing Financial Matters with Family Members or Trusted Individuals – Discussing financial matters with family members or trusted individuals can help prevent scams or frauds. Family members or trusted individuals can provide support by keeping an eye on things and flagging when things seem off. It is very likely that seniors may experience trouble with finances or fall victim to scams in later life. Having a designated individual to turn to can help prevent these incidents. 

What to do about Elder Fraud or Abuse? Report it!

Reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible, and within the first 2–3 days, can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.

Reporting scams or any other suspicious activity to the proper authorities is essential in combating these forms of exploitation and protecting vulnerable individuals. It is our responsibility to report incidents that may have occurred and look out for one another’s well-being, especially when it comes to the elderly in our community.

Alaska State Troopers

Submit crime tips to the Alaska State Troopers quickly online while remaining anonymous. Using your cell phone text the keyword AKTIPS, followed by your crime tip to 847411. Alternatively you can submit a tip securely online here. Help the Alaska State Troopers keep your community and state a safe place to live. 

Adult Protective Services

Adult Protective Services helps to prevent or stop harm from occurring to vulnerable adults. Alaska law requires that protective services not interfere with the elderly or disabled adults who are capable of caring for themselves. Alaska law defines vulnerable adults as a person 18 years of age or older who, because of incapacity, mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, fraud, confinement, or disappearance, is unable to meet the person’s own needs or to seek help without assistance.

  • You may call to report suspected abuse of a vulnerable adult to 1-800-478-9996 (in state only) or 907-269-3666.
  • You may complete the report about suspected abuse to a vulnerable adult via the Centralized Report

Any incident in which a vulnerable adult suffers harm from abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect. Mandated reporters are encouraged to use the “Report of Harm for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults” form to report incidents to Adult Protective Services.A report must be received by Adult Protective Services within 24 hours of the reporter becoming aware of the alleged abuse, exploitation, or neglect. Should the form be inaccessible or unusable for any reason, mandated reporters are instructed to not delay reporting and may call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-478-9996 (in state only) or 907-269-3666.

Attorneys General of Alaska

The attorney general serves as the legal advisor for the governor and other state officers, prosecutes all violations of state criminal law, and enforces the consumer protection and unfair trade practices laws. Contacting the Attorneys General of Alaska to report elder fraud is highly beneficial as it allows for the enforcement of consumer protection laws and prosecution of fraudulent activities. By sharing information about specific cases, you assist in identifying patterns, allocating resources effectively, and shaping policies to prevent and combat elder fraud. Your report aids in raising awareness, coordinating efforts with law enforcement agencies, and protecting vulnerable individuals from financial exploitation, making a significant impact in the fight against elder fraud.

Federal Trade Commission

Protect your community by reporting fraud, scams, and bad business practices.

reportfraud.ftc.gov” is an online resource by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) focused on combating elder fraud. It allows individuals to confidentially report fraud targeting older adults and provides educational resources to prevent scams. The platform fosters collaboration and helps law enforcement agencies develop strategies to protect seniors from financial exploitation. This is a vital tool in the fight against elder fraud.

Further reading: Protecting Older Consumers 2021–2022; A Report of the Federal Trade Commission

Internet Crime Complaint Center

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a collaborative initiative between the FBI, National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). It serves as a centralized reporting platform for internet-related crimes. People can submit complaints through the IC3 website, providing details about cybercrimes they have experienced. The IC3 reviews and analyzes these reports, sharing information with law enforcement agencies for further investigation. Additionally, the IC3 offers educational resources to promote online safety. IC3 plays a vital role in combating internet crime by facilitating reporting, data analysis, and prevention efforts.

Local Banks and Financial Institutions

We cannot overemphasize the importance of contacting local banks and financial institutions when elder fraud is suspected. Elderly individuals are often targeted for fraud schemes that result in identity theft or financial abuse. Conducting a fraud risk assessment and informing the banks about fraudulent activities can play an essential role in detecting, preventing, and reporting suspicious transactions to relevant agencies. Local banks are better equipped to identify fraudulent activity, report it promptly and work with law enforcement to investigate the issue.

Early precautions such as monitoring, freezing, or closing accounts can be taken if fraudulent activity is detected. The consequences of failing to report fraud scheme activities can be severe, including financial losses, long-term effects on credit scores, and potential harm to the victim’s emotional and physical well-being. Therefore, it is crucial to take immediate action and work closely with local banks to protect oneself or loved ones from elder fraud.

National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA)

National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) helps in protecting vulnerable adults from abuse and fraud. NAPSA is a non-profit organization that provides support, resources, and training to state and local government agencies responsible for investigating and preventing elder abuse and neglect. Its principal goals are to promote awareness of elder abuse and provide guidance on reporting such incidents.

NAPSA’s primary objective is to raise awareness of and prevent elder abuse through research, advocacy, and education. NAPSA promotes improved policies, services, and practices to better protect seniors and other vulnerable adults. The organization works with other groups, including law enforcement, healthcare providers, and social services agencies, to ensure that every state has an effective adult protective services program.

When reporting elder fraud or abuse under NAPSA, individuals and organizations follow a specific set of steps. First, they should contact their local Adult Protective Services agency and report suspected abuse or neglect. Upon receiving a report, APS professionals will assess the situation, determine if the elder requires protective services, and refer the case to law enforcement if necessary. It is essential to note that mandatory reporting laws vary by state, so individuals should check with their local APS agency for specific reporting requirements.

NAPSA’s work has helped protect the rights of elders by raising public awareness of the issue, providing training to adult protective services professionals, and advocating for improved policies and services. NAPSA has also worked with other organizations to develop a national database on abuse and neglect, which has been used to track trends and identify best practices for prevention and intervention.

NAPSA has supported governments’ efforts to protect the elderly from fraud by providing training, conducting research studies, and working with policymakers to develop policies and practices that better protect seniors. By working together to prevent elder fraud, NAPSA and other organizations can help ensure that elderly individuals are better protected and receive the care and respect they deserve.

AARP Fraud Watch Network

The AARP Fraud Watch NetworkTM is a free resource for all. With AARP as your partner, you’ll learn how to proactively spot scams, get guidance from our fraud specialists if you’ve been targeted, and feel more secure knowing that we advocate at the federal, state, and local levels to protect consumers and enforce the law.

National Elder Fraud Hotline

The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Elder Fraud Hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, provides services to all adults ages 60 and older, who may be victims of financial fraud.The hotline is staffed by experienced case managers who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps. 

While the hotline does not serve in an investigatory capacity, case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, and provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, or connect callers directly with the appropriate agency. The Hotline staff also provide resources and referrals to other applicable services as needed. When appropriate, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.

The impact of elder fraud on seniors can be devastating, leading to a loss of trust, financial strain, emotional trauma and psychological distress. It is thus critical for individuals, families, communities and regulatory bodies to take an active role in safeguarding older adults from financial exploitation. Staying informed of common elder fraud schemes, being cautious with personal information and engaging in strong security measures are essential elements in protecting vulnerable populations such as seniors. Donn Liston’s case offers important insight into the complexities of cybersecurity, the need for secure digital platforms, and the importance of remaining vigilant against fraudsters. At Peterson & Associates, we are committed to empowering businesses to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly. Join our cause today and together let us combat elder fraud. What’s your experience with elder fraud? Let us know in the comments below!

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