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Consumer alert: NYS DCP offers guidance to help identify and protect against scams targeting older adults


Wed, Jun 5th 2024 05:50 pm

June is World Elder Abuse Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of elder fraud that results in significant financial loss

Submitted by the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection

For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is offering guidance to help raise awareness of scams that target older adults.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2023 elder fraud report, scams targeting adults over the age of 60 caused over $3.4 billion in losses in 2023, an increase of approximately 11% from the prior year. The average victim of elder fraud lost $33,915 due to these crimes.

“Scams targeting older adults are becoming more prevalent and more advanced, with scammers using many different tactics to deceive consumers and steal personal information, money or both,” Secretary of State Walter T. Mosley said. “I encourage all New Yorkers to review this guidance, stay informed about the most common types of scams targeting older adults, and to make a plan to help protect older family members and friends from financial abuse.”

New York State Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen said, "Nationwide, scammers steal more than $28 billion annually from older adults. Scammers use increasingly sophisticated methods and tactics to prey on an individual's trust, stealing money, private information, home titles or other assets in the process. It's vital for older adults – and people of all ages – to know the warning signs and take simple steps to stay safe. Hang up the phone, or don't pick up calls to begin with from unrecognizable numbers. Ignore unsolicited links in emails, texts or social media, and verify any information requests using a trusted phone number.

“Remember: government agencies and other trusted organizations will not call, email or text you out of the blue to ask for your personal information."

New York State Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden said, “OCFS is committed to the protection and safety of our elders. In many instances, elder abuse may be undetected and under-reported. As many as one in 10 older adults experience abuse; yet, one in 24 abuse cases are reported to adult protective services. If you suspect abuse is happening, we urge you to call the New York State Adult Services Helpline at 1-844-697-3505. Citizens may also contact local county adult protective services office or law enforcement. Please visit the Adult Protective Services page on the OCFS website for more information on ways to identify and stop elder abuse.”

Some of the most common older adult scams include:

•Medical device scam: Unsolicited prerecorded messages, known as “robocalls,” offering free medical alert devices by providing an address and credit card information.

•Grandparent scam: Scammers call or email asking for money while impersonating a beloved grandchild who is in some kind of trouble.

•Ghosting scam: Identity thieves obtain personal information about deceased persons from obituaries, funeral homes, hospitals, stolen death certificates and online websites, and use this information to establish credit and open accounts, take out loans, receive benefits or even collect tax refunds filed under the stolen identity.

•Jury duty scam: Scammers pretending to be law enforcement officers or court officials contact individuals to inform them that they have failed to report to jury duty and must pay a fine by credit card to avoid an arrest.

•Funeral notification scam: Scammers send emails deceptively informing recipients of an upcoming farewell ceremony in remembrance of a friend or loved one, and upon clicking a link provided in the email, victims are sent to a third-party website where malicious software is downloaded so scammers can gain access to the user’s information.

•Sweepstakes scam: Scammers entice consumers with various prize offers and then ask to share personal information or pay a fee to enter the sweepstakes.

•Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposter scam: Phone scammers impersonate IRS agents and demand immediate payment of overdue taxes from victims via debit card or wire transfer to avoid being arrested.

•Free grant scam: Scammers promise fraudulent grants in print or over the phone and ask for bank account and routing numbers.

For more information about how you can recognize the most common older adult scams or for more scam prevention tips, download the Division of Consumer Protection’s informative senior anti-fraud education (S.A.F.E.) brochure. If you have parents or elderly family members, take the time to explain these scams to them.

Here are a few tips to follow if you or someone you know receives a call or email you believe to be a scam:

√ RESIST the urge to act immediately – no matter how dramatic the story is.

√ VERIFY the caller’s identity – ask questions that a stranger couldn’t answer. Check with a family member to see if the information is true.

√ DO NOT send cash, gift cards or money transfers. Once the scammer gets the money, it’s gone!

√ DO NOT give your personal banking account information by email or over the phone or log into bank accounts as directed by the caller (scammers can steal your information using screen mirroring).

During World Elder Abuse Month, the Division of Consumer Protection is also urging New Yorkers to make a plan to help protect senior family members and friends from financial abuse, given its prevalence. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a guide to preventing elder financial abuse with four important steps:

√ Prevent: Educate yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

√ Recognize: Spot the warning signs and take action.

√ Record: Document what you observe.

√ Report: Tell the appropriate authorities so they can investigate and help.

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) has also developed a new “Don't Get Scammed” guide, which provides information about scams including red flags, common scam types and tactics, and resources to help.

There are resources to help if you are concerned about an individual, friend or loved one who may be experiencing elder abuse, including the non-emergency helpline at 844-746-6905 and the Adult Protective Services hotline at 1-844-697-3505, to report abuse.

About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The consumer assistance helpline (1-800-697-1220) is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. For other consumer protection tips and consumer alerts, consumers can follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to an email or phone here.

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