Ask the D.A.: How the Elderly Can Avoid Scams

District Attorney Charles Hynes talks about what the elderly population should watch out for to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.


Recently my mother who is in her late 80’s and lives alone told me about a solicitation that her neighbor received which sounded too good to be true. Upon further investigation the advertisement proved to be a fraud. Can you offer advice on how to play it safe and what the elderly population in particular should watch out for to avoid becoming a victim of fraud?

Taking an active interest in the financial activities of your aging parents is imperative, as is sharing information about scams with friends and family.  It is never too early to become an informed consumer.  Pointing out “too good to be true” solicitations and teaching others to be skeptical of such offers is the best advice to offer to all readers.  Other common frauds include pressuring the intended victim to act immediately, promising suspiciously high returns, and requiring an upfront fee even if the fee is in return for something being offered for free.  

While modern technology has made it more convenient to access money, apply for new credit lines and pay bills, it has also made it easier to be victimized.  One of the most obvious signs of financial abuse in the elderly is the person being isolated from family, friends or community.  Alternatively, neighbors and friends should remain alert for excessive involvement by a relative stranger or new friend in finances, banking or decision-making.  If financial abuse or scams are suspected the key is to take immediate action and do whatever you can to stop further access to the victim’s assets.

First, contact the local county Adult Protective Services or the jurisdiction’s Office for the Aging.  Protect the privacy of all financial records, and send duplicate financial statements, credit card bills, and utility bills to a trusted friend or family member for their review.  Also, run regular credit checks to discover new or recently opened credit accounts.  

The above suggestions by no means serves as comprehensive coverage of the topic of financial abuse but hopefully raises your awareness and motivates you to inquire about ways to protect your loved one.  Please contact my Citizen’s Action Center at (718) 250-2340, as well as my Neighborhood Offices located throughout the county who can provide assistance and appropriate referrals if you suspect fraud.  The hotline for my Neighborhood Offices is (718) 250-2555 for a location nearest you.


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