Between discarded mail and so-called “free prize” phone calls, chances of fraud and identity theft are high among senior citizens.
Home Instead Senior Care, a local program serving Cherokee, Nacogdoches, Rusk and Angelina counties, has partnered with the non-profit National Association of Triads to provided senior citizens with the Protect Seniors from Fraud program.
Jeremy Beall, Home Instead Jacksonville office owner, said the program provides families with important documents and websites to help prevent fraud. Senior Fraud Protect Kits are also available at the Home Instead office in Jacksonville, 402 S. Ragsdale St., Suite 203.
“One of the main reasons (senior citizens) are taken advantage of is because they are normally isolated if they have nobody with them at home,” he said. “When a sales person stops by, they don't have anyone to ask an opinion, or someone to debate the issue — they have to make a decision on their own.”
Beall said a fake sales person can be spotted by the approach they take when selling items to seniors citizens.
“Salesmen that are pushy are not real salesmen,” he said. “They are pushing for a answer, sometimes within minutes, because they want to get your information and run with it. Real salesmen are not to be pushy because they have a sense of moral and business ethics.”
The top three crimes targeting seniors are identity theft, Medicaid/Medicare and medication fraud, and financial exploitation, a press release states.
The demographics of an aging population and the sophistication of scammers are adding up to big losses – both financially and emotionally – for older adults. The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase since 2008.
“Seniors are victims and, in general, we are trying to raise awareness to all families that have seniors living on their own,” Beall said.
According to the press release, it's difficult to for authorities to catch criminals because seniors don't report the thefts, experts say.
“A recent AARP study found that only 25 percent of victims over age 55 have reported to authorities that they’ve fallen for a scam,” said Ed Hutchison, director of the National Association of Triads, Inc., who serves as expert source for the program.
Beall said as a service, Home Instead Senior Care allows senior citizens to bring in documents to shred at the Jacksonville office, decreasing the chances of their personal information being discovered and exploited.
“We shred the documents right in front of them,” he said. “They can bring in personal items like bank statements or credit card offers.”
For the program information packet or Senior Fraud Protect Kit, Beall can be reached by phone at 903-284-6102. Information packets can also be sent via email.
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