Legal ramifcations for senior scams

“Legally, these people, they have a firewall. You can’t get to them. Your money is already gone, you’re not going to recover it. But what we’ve tried to do in the state of Michigan is get legislation passed in the House and Senate, and we’re moving along with that,” remarked Jerry Irby, a member of Senior Services and the Commission on Aging for the past 17 years.

Last year the Senate passed 8 bills to protect seniors, but only one made it through the House.

Bill No. 467 aims to protect consumers from misleading annuity recommendations made by insurance companies. Unless you come from a strong financial background, annuities can be misleading and are not usually explained properly. These types of scams toe the line of legitmacy. Even family members try their hand at swindling.

“That was a case in which a daughter obtained a power of attorney over her mother, and in the course of one day she removed $142,000 from the mother’s various bank accounts, leaving mother a balance of $200. Unfortunately, these types of stories are all too common,” explained Ron Tatro, Director of Elder Law Service of Michigan.

The digital age hasn’t done the senior community any favors either. Emails and pop-up windows promise “quick fixes” and “fast cash.” But once you’ve filled out an online form, the damage is done. You are now a member of the “Suckers List” which is sold to third parties who send a barrage of offers in the same vein.

“No matter if it’s a senior in college or a senior 90 years old, once a criminal finds an opportunity they’re going to take advantage of it,” Irby noted.

Locally, there is hope. Senior networks like TRIAD notify the community of potential scams and keep them aware of what’s happening. Citizens are starting to listen and are learning what to avoid.

“Don’t give out any personal information on the phone. Don’t give out your social security number, Be very conscience of who you’re talking to and what their motivation in calling you is for. Many times it’s for their benefit, not your benefit,” warned Irby.

One method, probably the most heinous of all, involves a scammer calling and pretending to be a grandson or granddaughter. They do thorough research on the family ahead of time, to give their guise credibility, before asking for bail money, help with bills, or financial assitance for a medical emergency.

“The best thing to do: hang up the phone. Someone calls you that you don’t know. They start asking you questions. Hang up the phone. I know one guy who’s got a foghorn thing. If someone calls him and bugs him, he puts the foghorn on his phone and blows out their ear. We don’t recommend that. We’re not saying to do that,” Irby reiterated.

But err on the side of caution. Call your family immediately to check in. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.