Financial fraud and abuse of older people is a huge and often unreported problem. Losses have been estimated at about $36 billion a year. And partly because of the embarrassment of being exploited, only 1 in 44 victims report their losses, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.
A case in point, which illuminates how a vulnerable person can be scammed, is recounted by Time magazine:
A widow, a retired nurse in Kingston, N.Y., (she didn’t want to give her name) joined the dating site Match.com. She was pursued by a man posing as a widower and retired accountant, who said he was 10 years younger than her.
She ignored an early red flag. He told her he worked with a Christian youth group in Texas, but when she called the church, the receptionist and the priest hadn’t heard of him. Her suitor told her it was a big church, and she believed him.
Soon she accepted his offer to help with her finances and invest for her, tasks her husband had handled. She liquidated accounts and wired about $1.1 million to him.
She caught on too late to the scam. She filed a police report and discovered that her suitor, 35, had worked several dating sites and swindled dozens of women. He was arrested, but it’s unclear whether she will ever see her money.
Tips for how to protect yourself from scams can be found at AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.