Showing posts with label elderly scams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elderly scams. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crime Against Senior Citizens

One personality trait that seems to take over when we retire is that we become much more relaxed about a lot of things that used to worry us.  When we become relaxed about how we spend our time, how late we stay up, or our vacation destinations, that is understandable and one of the advantages of being retired. 

However, sometimes people become alarmingly relaxed about their personal and financial security.  If that happens to you, it could put you in danger, as well as your loved ones.  It also could mean that you put at risk everything you have spent your life building.  Unfortunately, there are far too many people who prey on the elderly, taking advantage of their kindness and their trusting nature.  Don't let your retirement be ruined by predators.

Local Crime Against the Elderly

Our gated retirement community, Laguna Woods Village,which is considered one of the safest in the state of California, just released our latest crime statistics.  This data shows that residential burglaries in our town have tripled since 2007 and property crimes are at all-time highs.  Shown below are a few of the statistics listed for our neighborhood.

Between 2007 and 2013:

Burglaries increased from 13 to 20
Residential burglaries increased from 4 to 15
Thefts increased from 70 to 121
Bicycle thefts increased from 2 to 13
Thefts from cars increased from 11 to 24

These are significant increases in crime, especially considering that we live in a secured guard-gated, over-55 community with private security patrolling the streets 24 hours a day.  In addition, a high percentage of our residents are retired and home most of the time.

National Crime Statistics

Unfortunately, what is happening within our community is reflected across the country.  Incidents of crime against the elderly have become a serious national problem, according to a number of sources.  The types of crimes not only include burglary and property crimes, but theft of assets, fraud, physical and financial abuse and assaults.  Here are some of the troubling statistics I discovered:

In 1998, the National Center on Elder Abuse released an estimate that about 1/3 of the cases of elder abuse cases involved financial exploitation of some kind. Indications are that this type of crime has increased since then.

In 2000, the US Senate Special Committee on Aging reported $40 billion in losses to the elderly due to telemarketing fraud.  This number, as well, has certainly increased significantly in the past 13 years.

According to Project America, about 2.5 of every 1000 elderly citizens will experience a physical criminal attack each year.  The specific incidence of various types of physical attacks against the elderly are:

Rape or sexual assault:  0.1 per 1000
Robbery: 0.6 per 1000
Aggravated assault: 0.3 per 1000
Simple assault:  1.5 per 1000
Personal theft: 0.8 per 1000 

According to the website, every 2.7 minutes an elderly person is victimized in the U.S.  That is a horrifying statistic.

Actions You Can Take to Avoid Being a Victim of a Crime

Our local county sheriff's department published a list of suggestions to help the elderly reduce their chances of becoming crime victims.  While some of these suggestions seem obvious, I know that many residents of our neighborhood have become lax about basic security because they feel so safe living here.  A few suggestions are good reminders:

1.  Keep your doors and windows locked when you go out.  Make sure your locks are in good working order and you may also want to consider installing an alarm system.

2.  Put lights on timers when you are going to be out after dark.  This has the additional advantage of preventing accidents from trips and falls that can occur when you enter a dark house.

3.  Cancel newspapers when you are going to be gone or ask a neighbor to pick up your newspapers and mail.  Because so many people are home during the day in a retirement community, it should be easy to find someone to help you.

4.  If you have a computer, have a computer expert check it from time to time to make sure your firewall and anti-virus protection are the latest versions.  If a stranger calls and says they are trying to fix a virus on your computer, hang up.  Do not follow their instructions.  This is a popular scam that can allow them to trick you into loading a virus onto your computer ... that only the caller can repair!

5.  Do not give out personal information to anyone who calls you.  Your bank and credit card companies already have your account numbers.  Do not give this information out to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the call in order to make a purchase.

6.  Ask for an I.D. from anyone who comes to your door and claims to be from a utility company or other local business.  If you have any doubts, call the utility company to confirm that they sent the person.

7.  Take pictures of your valuables and keep the photos in a safe place.  In addition, mark your valuables with an identification number, if possible.  This may make it easier to reclaim items that are stolen.

8.  Do not fall for requests for money from people pretending to be relatives.  It is one of the latest scams and, as I have mentioned before in this blog, several people I know have lost thousands of dollars in this way. Confirm, confirm, confirm.  Even if they ask you not to call anyone else in the family, call anyway.

9.  Do not leave valuables in plain view in your car.  Most thefts from cars occur when passersby see a cell phone, purse or other item in your car and they break a window and steal it.  Just a few weeks ago, someone broke several car windows at the stables in our retirement community.  While people were peacefully enjoying a trail ride, their purses were being stolen from their cars!

10.  Do not put your purse or wallet in the trunk of your car while standing in the parking lot of your gym, golf course or other public building.  Thieves hang around these place watching for people to put their valuables in the car trunks.  Then, while you are happily getting some exercise, they pop open your trunk and steal your belongings.  It just takes them seconds.

While some of the items listed above may just seem like good common sense, far too many elderly become lax as they age, especially if they feel they live in a safe area.  This is the time when you should become more vigilant than ever!

If you are retired or planning to retire soon, and you need additional information about how to have the best retirement possible, you may want to check out the blog posts listed in the index articles below.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:


"Property Crimes Spike in City," Laguna Woods Globe - Orange County Register, August 15, 2013.

Photo of police car is courtesy of

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for Older Americans

There is a new government agency that has been established to help protect older Americans from financial abuse and scams against the elderly.  It is called the Office for Older Americans - Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The opening of this new agency is significant because so many senior citizens have been victimized in recent years both by scam artists and members of their own families.  In addition, a number of retirees have been financially destroyed when they became involved in investments that were inappropriate for them.  This agency was created during the recent Great Recession when it became obvious that many older Americans had lost a significant amount of their assets.

In addition to the financial losses that have been caused by risky investments and scams, many senior citizens have been victimized by family members and financial consultants whom they believed to be reliable and responsible. Often large amounts of money have been drained from their accounts before they realized it. 

The mandate for this new agency covers a variety of types of financial elder abuse.  In fact, many of us have already benefited from the first actions taken by this agency, including requiring that credit card statements be simplified.  The agency is headed by Skip Humphrey, the son of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey.  In an interview in the March, 2013 AARP Bulletin, Mr. Humphrey said that the agency's goals are to prevent citizens from getting ripped off and to help people make smart financial decisions.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Projects

This new agency has already accomplished a great deal.  However, they have many other plans that will help protect both senior citizens and the general public.  Here are some of the changes they hope to implement over the next few years:

They plan to investigate credit reporting bureaus and require that they make it easier to fix mixtakes on credit reports.

They are in the process of writing easy-to-read guides to help people choose financial advisors.

They plan to require operators of nursing homes and similar facilities to resolve problems with unpaid bills quickly so they can help officials discover if the person has been scammed or is no longer able to handle their finances because of dementia.

They are writing a guide called "Money Smart for Older Adults" to help people learn how to avoid getting scammed.

Senior citizens will also be encouraged to report scams that occur.  Many older Americans are hesitant to report these events because they are embarrassed or afraid that their families will take away their independence.

The agency also plans to tackle the issue of risky reverse mortgages, which have left many senior citizens homeless.  This is an issue that has also been discussed before in this blog, so I was especially pleased that some changes may be made to that program.

How to File a Complaint with the Agency

If you feel that you have been scammed or treated unfairly in any financial situation, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  In fact, you are encouraged to do so because you may help prevent the same thing from happening to others.  The agency has set up a website where you can register your complaints and then follow up by tracking their progress.  However, for people who are less comfortable with computers, the agency offers a variety of ways you can file a complaint.  Here is the agency's contact information:

Office for Older Americans
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
P.O. Box 4503
Iowa City, Iowa 52244

Phone:  (855) 411-2372 (toll free)

Fax:  (855) 237-2392 (toll free)



Complaint website:

The more information you give the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the better they will be able to do their job.  This is especially important because studies indicate that currently only about 4% of victims ever report that they were scammed.  Increased reporting will also improve the effectiveness of this new agency.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to have a well-planned retirement, you may want to click on the index articles shown below.  Each one contains an introduction plus links to a variety of articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of older Americans courtesy of