Crime experts say the holidays offer scam artists another opportunity to prey upon people’s giving nature, especially older adults living alone.
Many fake charities will target seniors – with the goal of not only getting a donation, but personal financial information as well.
Sunny Mulligan Shea is a victim witness advocate with the New Hampshire Department of Justice. She said only legitimate charities will be registered with the Secretary of State’s office.
“So,” said Shea, “before you give away money in an effort to be kind and good, make sure you’re giving to something that is kind and good.”
Shea said fake charities often request payment in the form of gift cards, which should always be a red flag.
She said anyone who believes they or a loved one have been the victim of a financial scam should contact their local police department or the New Hampshire Bureau of Elderly & Adult Services.
Loneliness is a common factor in older adults who’ve been tricked into turning over their money. Romance scams are especially heartbreaking, Shea said, and have cost some of her clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.
She advised that the best way to protect older friends or relatives is to check on them regularly and, if possible, ask to check their credit scores and bank statements.
“And if you’re in their home,” said Shea, “say you’re visiting a home and suddenly you realize that there’s not as many groceries as would normally be in the refrigerator – it might be a sign that someone’s taking their money.”
Studies show nearly one fourth of American adults age 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated, making them more vulnerable to con artists.
Shea said to remember that these are professional criminals who are good at what they do, and even the brightest adults can be fooled.
This story was written by Kathryn Carley, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.
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