Not long ago my Grandmother received a telephone call from a man posing as me. He knew my birthdate, and the names of my siblings along with some other basic information sufficient to make his pitch. He explained that I was in jail for drunk driving and asked her to wire bail money so that my parents would not find out.
Grandma was surprised to hear that I had gone down-hill so quickly since our last visit; nevertheless, the last thing she wanted to do was to bail out a miscreant, even if he was her own grandson. Her willingness to let the charlatan “me” sit in jail prevented her becoming a victim of elder fraud.
According to a study conducted by MetLife Insurance in 201l, financial abuse of the elderly now results in losses approaching $3 Billion annually. If you do not feel like contributing your hard earned retirement funds to fraudsters this year, the best defense you have is your own common sense. One resource that I recommend to all of my clients is Jilenne Gunther’s “Navigating Your Rights: The Utah Legal Guide for Those 55 and Over.” It is available on the internet free of charge at http://legalguide55.utah.gov/. The guide provides a succinct reference on all of the most common types of fraud and other abuse as well as the way to report wrongdoers to the appropriate agencies.
Gunther tells of one senior who received what appeared to be a routine call from her lawn care company asking to update her credit card information on file. The woman responded to the inquiry by stating that she did not give any personal information to anyone over the phone unless she herself initiated the call but that she would call back promptly.
Once she hung up the phone, the woman went to the phonebook and called her lawn servicer herself only to find the number was different than that on her answering machine and furthermore, that the lawn care did not need her payment information. This is a perfect example of common sense winning over scammers. Our common sense takeaway for today: never share personal financial information over the phone unless you initiate the call! It is perfectly acceptable to tell callers that you will return their call later.
Chris Morgan is a licensed Utah attorney practicing elder law in Lehi. He can be contacted at (801) 874-5644 or http://www.elderlawutah.com.