SELF-SERVING EDITORIAL NOTE: A year ago, Jana Panarites, host of The Agewyz Podcast, interviewed me about my cancer and a bunch of other things. She has posted again and if you missed it the first time, you can listen to it here.
If you go by the number of fraud alerts aimed at elders that drop into my inbox (unless you are an overwrought conspiracy theorist, there is no reason to believe they are wrong), you couldn't be blamed for thinking old people are idiots.
Look at this chart from the 2018 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018 [pdf]:
As you can see, the largest age cohort, 60-69, takes up the largest number of fraud reports in 2018 – 20 percent of the total. Apparently, however, we get better at identifying fraud as we get older: The 70-79 age group accounts for 13 percent of fraud reporting; 80 and older, only six percent.
On 7 March this year, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in a press release:
”Attorney General William P. Barr and multiple law enforcement partners today announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, surpassing last year’s nationwide sweep.
“The cases during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly. The Department took action in every federal district across the country, through the filing of criminal or civil cases or through consumer education efforts.”
As to my rude assumption above that elder fraud victims are idiots, many are dementia patients and sometimes victims have been threatened by the scammers:
”Among the would-be victims highlighted were William Webster, the former director of the FBI and CIA, and his wife, Lynda,” reports the Associated Press.
“The couple described how they were targeted by a man from Jamaica who threatened them. The Websters involved the FBI, which arrested the man after he arrived in the U.S.”
It's the scale of this crime that leaped off the pages for me: 260 defendants with 2 million victims. I know this kind of fraud aimed at elders has been going on for decades but at this particular political juncture in U.S. history, it seems almost as normal as the president's tweet storms have become.
And neither should exist. Or, at least should beget more outrage than I can see happening.
Further, the harm beyond stolen money itself is that unlike younger victims, old people do not have the time to recoup their losses often leaving them without enough money to afford both food AND medications.
The FTC encourages reporting fraud. The complaint page at the FTC is here. Or telephone 1.800.FTC.HELP.
Have you or anyone you know been a victim of elder fraud?