Latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight Finds Seniors Sending Thousands in Cash to Scammers Claiming to be their Grandchildren
Older consumers who report losing money to fraud are reporting a disturbing trend: Scammers claiming to be a loved one in trouble are getting people 70 and over to send thousands of dollars in cash.
In the second Consumer Protection Data Spotlight, the Federal Trade Commission examined complaints about family and friend imposter scams. These scammers often call seniors claiming to be a grandchild. The FTC is seeing an increase in the number of people ages 70 and over who say they sent cash in response to this particular scam – one in four said they mailed cash in 2018, compared to one in fourteen the prior year. In about half of these types of complaints, the scammer said they were in jail or some other legal trouble and in need of money to get out of trouble.
All age groups reported losing more money over the last 12 months to family and friend imposter scams – a total of $41 million, compared to $26 million the previous year. The most striking concern is individual losses by older Americans. The median loss for this scam was $2,000, but when seniors ages 70 and over said they put cash in the mail, their median loss was $9,000.
The FTC urges those who might get such a call to not act right away. Instead, the FTC recommends calling the family member or friend using a known number, or checking out the request with someone else in their family or a mutual friend.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Consumer Response Center
I have had a number of very unhappy consumer victims of scams where they received very convincing calls from someone with an authoritative voice who told them that they were going to be arrested/audited/exposed as a liar/cheat/unfit parent/tax fraud unless they went to Apple (or Google or Wal-Mart) and bought gift cards and gave the codes from the cards to the person calling.
It's easy for you and I to sit back and say "That's an obvious scam" but it's not obvious sometimes, when you're tired and don't expect someone to call and threaten you. Once your amygdala fear response kicks in, your reasoning declines dramatically.
So just remember -- just like money never calls you on the phone, only scammers demand payment in gift card codes.
Never buy a gift card because someone threatened you! (Unless it's your wife.)
Scammers demand gift cards | Consumer Information
The short answer to "How do criminals steal from the elderly?" is "by phone, mostly."
And new phone-based payment services that let you send money to others without even leaving your house make it crucial that you remember this key survival rule:
MONEY NEVER CALLS YOU ON THE PHONE.
And if you think you've found the exception to this rule, call an attorney or a trusted friend with good sense to discuss the offer before you do ANYTHING that the caller suggests. If you have truly found the exception to the rule, it'll wait for you to conduct a thorough investigation.
If you feel ANY pressure to seize the opportunity at all, that's the clearest sign of all that it's a SCAM.
Remember, the phone and internet means just one thing for sure:
Every criminal in the entire world is just one click or phonecall away from you.
In years past, you pretty much only did business with people nearby; now you can be ripped off by someone from a country you can't even pronounce just as easily as by someone who calls you from a boiler-room scam operation in your own hometown.
How Criminal Steal $37 billion a year from the elderly
Remember -- you have EVERY RIGHT to take the paperwork home from a car dealer so you can get help reading and understanding it at your leisure before you sign!
A car salesman who says "I can't hold this car for you if you leave" is a liar trying to pressure you into signing on the dotted line without having help reviewing the contract.
FTC press release:
Not all dealers play by the rules. In a case announced today, the FTC alleges that Tate’s Auto Center of Winslow, Inc. — as well as related dealerships in Arizona and New Mexico and their owner and manager, Richard Berry --
* used deceptive advertising to get people in the door,
* failed to disclose required financing terms, and
* frequently falsified consumers’ income and down payment information in an effort to close the deal.
Instead of using the income information people gave, Tate’s often inflated numbers to make it look like people had higher monthly incomes.
US Ed Department wants to protect Trump U. Type Scam Schools instead of Ripped-Off Student Loan Borrowers
HOW YOU CAN COMMENT:
This is one of the most frequent and difficult problems I run into - calls from people who are shocked to see their paycheck reduced by a wage garnishment or who are suddenly bouncing checks and getting hit with overdraft fees for debits and failed payment fees because their bank accounts were garnished ...
This problem is why you should NEVER ignore a demand letter or a lawsuit -- the problem you cause yourself when you do is always exponentially larger and more expensive to solve than the one you started with.
Just because they are claiming you owe them doesn't mean you do (or, "Why you should call a lawyer if you have debt problems")
The Norfolk, VA paper has an interesting story that again demonstrates that just because someone shoves papers at you and claims you owe them money, it doesn't necessarily mean that you do. You might owe SOMEBODY something, but it's vital that you pay only the true creditor if you pay the debt -- because the true creditor's claims against you aren't wiped out by your payment to a scammer like this.
Note the ways to tell this is phony -- the "Noreply" email is misspelled, and the "simply call us at" phone number is bogus.
The most important tip, though, is to ALWAYS look at the sender id: email@example.com is NOT Netflix.
Legit businesses do NOT send this kind of thing.
If you were to click on those links, you'd be taken to a very convincing phony website that would collect your attempts to log in, which would capture your actual netflix login and username.
It helps that I don't have a Netflix account, but it's important to recognize all spearfishing attacks.
WOW. This FOX affiliate's "Reality Check" is an amazingly good piece of local TV journalism. WELL WORTH A WATCH.
Please share the video at the link with as many people as you can. Until everyday people realize just how badly the justice system has been privatized, corrupted, and turned against us, the real people, businesses will keep getting away with using arbitration to cover up their crimes and they will continue pouring money into campaigns to lock in their unfair dispute resolution scheme, where they get to use the power of the courts against you, but not the other way around.
Popular outrage is the only antidote. We have to start defeating any candidate for federal office who won't make fixing this mess a top priority.
John Gear is a Salem attorney in solo practice