It’s unfortunate but true, financial elder abuse is a growing problem. Unscrupulous thieves conducting consumer fraud schemes may target older individuals because they perceive seniors as more trusting or simply because older people may have accumulated more wealth. As a San Francisco elder abuse lawyer and a San Francisco financial fraud attorney, Greg Brod is committed to stopping ALL forms of elder abuse whether it targets the person’s physical, mental, or financial well-being.
Examples of Financial Elder Abuse from the State Bar of California
An elder abuse information pamphlet from the State Bar of California (“State Bar”) explains that seniors are often the targets of consumer fraud scams. According to the pamphlet, Americans lose billions of dollars per year due to telephone and mail scams alone. E-mail and even in-person scams are also a threat.
In addition to the general advice that “[i]f it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” the State Bar lists the following common financial scams that frequently target older Americans:
- Charity Schemes: Scammers may be seeking donations to fake charities. The State Bar notes that all charities soliciting donations must register with the state and recommends checking for a registration via the Attorney General’s website before donating in addition to consulting the Better Business Bureau.
- Credit-Related Schemes – Scams include claims to sell unnecessary insurance to cover unauthorized charges and “credit repair” schemes that are illegal and ineffective.
- Door-to-Door Solicitation – Most cities require a business permit and the State Bar recommends asking for one. Individuals should also resist pressure to buy on-the-spot and be aware that you legally have three business days to cancel contracts made in your home.
- Financial Advising/Investment Scams – Be alert for investment seminars and get-rich-quick schemes. The State Bar suggest checking the credentials of any financial salesperson and consulting the California Department of Corporations to learn about the company and salesperson.
- Funeral/Cemetery Fraud – Beware overpriced sales pitches and look to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau for guidance on what to look for in a contract as well as to verify licensure of a funeral establishment.
- Home Repair Schemes – What seems like a good deal can turn sour if the repairman does a shoddy job or even does nothing at all. Always get multiple estimates, check company references, and get everything in writing.
- Medicare Fraud – Cases of Medicare fraud run a wide gamut. Always check your statement of benefits to make sure you actually received everything listed and ensure your number has not been used for fraudulent purposes.
- Living Trust Mills – In these schemes, unqualified salespeople pose as experts to get access to your financial information and sell you a living trust or annuity that is not appropriate for your needs.
- Telemarketing/Internet/Mail Fraud – As a general rule, never give personal information or money to people who contact you unsolicited. If you do have interest in a pitch, at least check on the caller’s credentials and call them back later. Beware claims that you won a sweepstakes or lottery and need to pay a fee to collect.
- Predatory Real Estate Lending Schemes – Dishonest lenders may lure seniors into home-related loans that they cannot afford, that may have inflated interest rates, or even that violate the law. If you are interested in a home equity loan, be sure the lender is legitimate and carefully review the terms of the loan. Loan modification schemes are also a common way to take advantage of seniors.
Of course, these are only a few examples of the man types of financial elder abuse. Criminals are creative and new schemes pop up as people become wary of the old ones.
A Law Firm for Financial Fraud in San Francisco and Throughout Northern California
If you are the victim of financial fraud in Northern California, please call to arrange a consultation with our San Francisco consumer fraud attorney. We can also assist with other forms of elder abuse and we have additional offices in Santa Rosa and Oakland.
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(Image by Don Hankins)