Recently, the U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced the largest ever crackdown on fraud against older Americans. Conservative estimates suggest that elder fraud costs seniors about $3 billion a year. An official from the Justice Department pointed out, “If a senior falls victim to these scams — say they lose their life savings — what happens next? They lose their house, right?” The official continued, “They lose their car. They have nowhere to go. Their health starts to fail and everything spirals, right? And by the time they ask for help, it’s almost too late.”
This issue is particularly important to Sawyer & Sawyer, P.A. given Senior Partner Carolyn Sawyer’s passion for protecting the elderly. She served as Chairperson of the Elder Law Section’s Committee on Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation. She also helped develop and sponsor several annual multidisciplinary workshops on Elder Exploitation with the Florida Office of the Attorney General. Additionally, Carolyn participated on a committee to develop landmark legislation on criminal elder exploitation which was signed into law in 2014.
The Department of Justice offered the following advice to avoid scams:
- If you get a call, be wary of anyone who demands money in a hurry, particularly if he insists you go to a store and purchase gift cards as a means of payment.
- If you are a caregiver or relative of an older American, pay attention to letters they receive in the mail. Ask about phone calls from strangers and people purporting to provide tech support or to represent the government.
- File complaints about suspected fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (ftccomplaintassistant.gov), to the FBI (ic3.gov) or to a state attorney general.