Senior America's Information Magazine



Fraud against seniors

Fraud is arguably the most prevalent scourge against seniors today.  That’s a pretty strong statement and there are certainly those that would argue that such a dubious honor more aptly belongs to any one of a number of various diseases or medical conditions.   All arguments aside, fraud is perpetrated at various levels on thousands of seniors a day. 

Exact figures are relatively hard to come by, chiefly because few seniors report the fraud or perhaps don’t even know that 

they have been victimized. Another reason is that different people have different definitions of fraud.  Most agree that

inducing someone to enter an agreement under false pretenses is fraud.  Others would add that intentionally using unclear terms in order to confuse someone to be just as fraudulent.  Still others consider intent irrelevant.

What is fraud?

When something is promised that isn’t delivered, this can be relatively easy to prove, especially with a written statement of the agreement in hand. The fraud cases that are hard to prove are the ones where there is no written agreement and/or where there is a lack of evidence that there was an agreement, or if there was, what the terms are.

In order to swindle someone, there must be a certain level of trust.  The swindler may be totally anonymous and work via email or phone, they may come right to your door, or they may be the businessperson just down the block.  

The swindler might be honest most of the time and only carry out an occasional swindle when an easy opportunity presents itself.  No profession is immune from the conman.  It may be the local social worker, neighbor, maid, doctor, lawyer, or lawn service man.  Regardless of their approach or who they are, the swindler has a great story to inspire trust in the prospect victim.  No matter who you deal with or if you've dealt with them before, it always pays to do business with your eyes wide open.

Family fraud 

The most tragic cases of course, are those frauds that are committed by family.  For many reasons, these are often the most under-reported cases of fraud as well.  The child who wants a little greater inheritance may take advantage of his/her relationship with the parents to obtain secret loans, sell goods cheaply, or just outright steal.  Most parents are reluctant to then use legal means to reacquire the asset.

When most people hear the word “fraud”, “swindle” or “con”, they usually think of the big ones, the one where someone’s life savings was consumed.  Though these large swindles exist, the vast majority of swindles are relatively small, ranging from $20 up to a couple of thousand dollars, sometimes even smaller.

Small frauds - Big frauds 

Small frauds can be hard to detect.  The conman often destroys the evidence of his fraud, it may be chalked up to a misunderstanding or mistake, or the conman may generate a refund to anyone that catches him so that he won’t be reported to the authorities.  Many times, people don’t even know that they’ve been swindled.  If you paid for a $90 per tire for a set of tires, do you always check to make sure you got exactly what you ordered?  Or could the garage put on $60 tires without you knowing?  This assumed trust and/or lack of expertise is often the way many seniors are duped.  Even if the person does know that they’ve been swindled, they often feel embarrassed to admit it to anyone else.

It is far riskier for a conman to perpetrate a large fraud than a small one.  Large ones often draw the attention of family members and they are so devastating that the fraud takes on a life of it’s own.  Other times, anger over-powers even the strongest feelings of humiliation and the victim reports the crime.

Fraud motivators 

Obviously the biggest motivator in committing a fraud against anyone is greed; the desire to acquire more than one is entitled to, and to do so at someone else’s expense.  Conversely, various degrees of the same motivator allow the victim to be victimized.  Whether it is outright greed or just trying to get a great deal, the perpetrator relies on the willingness of the victim to act quickly and/or secretly to get the most value. 

There isn’t anything wrong with trying to get a great deal or save money.  The problem comes when this goal is the primary goal.  Here’s the big secret in avoiding fraud, there is no hurry and if it is such a great deal, then others will agree.

Disclaimer:  These pages are created to inform and educate the public only.  They are not and should not be considered legal opinions or advice.  You do not and cannot have any client-attorney relationship with SeniorMag or any of its employees.  You should not act upon legal advice found on SeniorMag and are advised to seek professional counsel before taking any action based upon information found on this site. 


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