They are so pervasive that law enforcement assigns them categories: the Nigerian or “419” scam, check scams, sweepstakes and lottery con games, Jamaican scams.
Regardless of the form they take, all such scams are designed to part people from their money. In the case of the trusting elderly, who are most vulnerable to cleverly designed pitches and mail fraud, the would-be thieves are chasing more than $13-trillion in assets held by America’s senior citizens.
In response, The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law hosted “The Financial Exploitation of Our Elder and Vulnerable Populations, 2012” on June 22. Co-sponsored by the law school and the D.C. Office on Aging, Elder Abuse Prevention Committee, the day-long training was designed for social workers, police officers, investigators, and others who work with vulnerable elderly and disabled adults.
Presenters came from the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, AARP, and Legal Counsel for the Elderly. They reviewed the many different types of financial exploitation and the efforts made to reduce risk and empower seniors.
Speaking during the morning session, U.S. Postal Inspector Charles Wickersham (top photo) had the audiences’ full attention as he explained that responding to lures such as phony checks made out to an individual, “final notifications,” or being awarded unsolicited prizes will put the responder’s name on a “suckers list,” which is circulated among would-be con artists.
Despite the crudeness of many of these scams—emails that originate in Nigeria are notorious for their poor grammar, for example—older people tend to fall for them, even if they think they know better.
“One day we’re all going to be potential victims, so it’s good to know what to look for,” said Wickersham.
The money fleeced from the elderly doesn’t always just line the perpetrators pocket, either. Many of the mail and telephone frauds and cons funnel money directly to criminal enterprises involved in drug and human trafficking, child prostitution, and terrorism, Wickersham explained.
There were handouts, videos and other materials available for attendees that explained how to guard against elderly relatives and clients from being taken in.
Other speakers addressed financial fraud against the elderly as perpetrated through real estate, and two detailed case histories were presented of examples of risk.
As in past years, Professor Faith Mullen had the primary role in hosting the training session at the Columbus School of Law.