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Mail Fraud and Older Adults: Staying Safe

This past spring we wrote about criminals contacting seniors claiming they are from the IRS, Social Security or even the FBI. These contacts are made by regular mail, phone calls or email. They say that they are collecting fines for things like back or late taxes, or that the individual is not properly registered for insurance coverage. They ask for bank and or credit card information. Give it to them, and they’ve got you – sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars, or even your life savings in the most extreme cases. You can see the entire article earlier in this section.

These con artists – some of them working on the other side of the world – have now come up with other ways to victimize unsuspecting seniors.

Last month (June 2016) an article in Forbes reported that the Department of Justice has “served up a reminder in the form of a civil complaint alleging multiple international mail fraud schemes that have defrauded elderly and vulnerable U.S. victims out of tens of millions of dollars.”

The article goes on to say:

“According to the complaint, U.S. residents received fraudulent direct mail solicitations that falsely claimed that individual victims had won, or would soon win cash, prizes or other bonus. The solicitations appeared to be personalized even though they were really form letters mailed to hundreds of thousands of potential victims. The solicitations typically matched one of three types:

  • False claims that the victim is the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes and will receive winnings if they pay a processing fee;
  • False claims that the victim has won a large sum of money and should purchase a “guaranteed,” “secret” method for winning lotteries and other games of chance; or
  • Solicitations allegedly from a psychic who has “seen” the victim winning large sums of money through the lottery or other contest which will only happen if with the purchase of various supernatural and divinatory objects or services.”

The scam takes various forms. Sometimes the recipient is told in big bold lettering they have already won a prize, when in fact they have not. Typically a disclaimer is outlined in very small print that is easy to miss. So-called prizes have taken the form of anything from large amount of cash to luxury vehicles.

The potential victims are asked to send a fee to receive the prize or to find out how to win more. In the latest case, they ask for a check, money order or credit card number to be sent to a post office box in the Netherlands. There have already been actions taken by the Dutch government against “defendants Trends Service in Communicative BEVY. (Trends) and Communicative Service Butenandt BEVY. (KSB), and owned and operated by defendant Erik Dekker, 54, of Longbrake, Netherlands.” Still, there are similar scammers out there ready to strike

Once they get your information these victims are prime targets for receiving more illegal offers in the future.

“The U.S. government estimates that, with this particular scheme, victims mailed over 530,000 payments to the defendants each year, totaling $18 million.”

So how can you stay safe? A good rule of thumb is not to be tricked into believing that you must pay to collect a prize.“No one should ever be told they must pay a fee, or make a worthless purchase, to collect a prize,” said Inspector in Charge Regina L. Faulkerson of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigation Group. “When that happens, its fraud – plain and simple – and Postal Inspectors work to keep those falsehoods out of the U.S. mail.”

The most important thing you can do: Report them immediately to agencies like the FBI, the postal service, or the office of the attorney general. Tips like this are incredibly important and have already lead to the take down of many of these criminal rings.

Finally, if you need help safeguarding your assets or those of a senior family member or loved one, we can help through the design of a solid and detailed plan. Just contact the Stinson Law Firm. We are there to keep you safe and secure now and into the future.

 

Our goal at the Stinson Law Firm is to secure your present and future and leave you with the peace of mind you deserve. Contact us today.

 

Jeff is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a distinction held by only a handful of lawyers in Indiana. For almost 20 years, he has focused on elder law, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, Veterans Affairs benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianships, and estate administration.

Jeffery D. Stinson, Certified Elder Law Attorney
Jeff is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a distinction held by only a handful of lawyers in Indiana. For almost 20 years, he has focused on elder law, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, Veterans Affairs benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianships, and estate administration.