News & Resources

Criminals targeting the elderly

Jul 16, 2012 Dave King

Many elderly Americans concern themselves with things such as personal health, family, retirement and other activities rather than safeguarding against identity theft. And, despite technology growth that has swept the globe, a large portion of American seniors have not adopted computer solutions. It can be harder for some of the aging population to keep up with the protection of their personal finances due to time and information constraints. In many cases, older citizens are not aware that their savings have been compromised until they are contacted by a debt collection agent, though at that point it may be too late. A number of cases in the news South Texas' KIII-TV reported Donald Cruz, of Sinton, is under investigation by police after allegedly stealing credit cards from an 81 year old. The police force claims Cruz then used the card to make thousands of dollars worth of purchases. In early April, mother and daughter criminal team Audrey and Robin Lewis were arrested after confessing to stealing money from the bank accounts of a 79 year old relative, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The duo created lines of credit using the man's name and made fraudulent purchases. According to the source, the crime was discovered just before debt collectors became involved, when the man received notices concerning credit card balances. Elder abuse Lenders may want to be aware of the ongoing scam against senior citizens, because they may not be able to recover sums lent out to criminals. Businesses that lend money to consumers should also be aware that criminals who steal the identities of the elderly are often also eligible for other charges. People who make fraudulent purchases using an older consumer's information are often familiar with the person they are defrauding. Sometimes, it is even a family member or caregiver. The Odessa American reported that nearly any type of misuse of a senior citizen's funds, including stealing cash, stealing credit cards or checks and signature forgery can often be considered elder abuse. Educating the masses Recently, the CHEER Community Center in Georgetown, Delaware held a discussion about fraud and identity theft for the senior population, according to the Cape Gazette. Representative John Carney told attendees about the 10 million citizens that are affected by identity theft annually, mentioning there are many access points to personal information including credit cards and loans - generally any time Social Security numbers are required. Carney explained seniors should take advantage of the free credit reports offered by the nation's three major bureaus.