By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
Not all residential thefts are caused by home invasions.
Statistics show that at least one out of every 10 telemarketing calls you receive at dinnertime involves some sort of scam or fraud. That type of fraud is on the rise, increasing at least 12 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to a MetLife study of Elder Financial Abuse.
The estimated dollar amount is a whopping $2.9 billion annually. That figure is most likely lower than the reality because many cases are never reported due to embarrassment and other factors. The statistics do not just pertain to the elderly (defined by these studies as anyone over 55), but the AARP reports 25 percent of all scams are perpetrated on victims over this age.
So while many can fall prey to such frauds, seniors are specifically targeted, according to Mariann D'Arcangelo, Community Service Representative of Home Instead Senior Care of Volusia County.
Ms. D'Arcangelo is conducting a seminar on Senior Fraud on Wednesday, March 27, at the Grand Villa Senior Living Community.
She said seniors are targeted because they are usually retired, less mobile and normally at home. They often are alone, as families may have moved away. They quite often are lonely and vulnerable to a friendly voice. They may be sick and unable to maintain their homes. They are likely to have resources, money, a home, life savings and other assets.
Some of the topics Ms. D'Arcangelo covers in her seminar include why seniors are targeted, the top senior scams and financial abuse tactics. Some of her other topics are the impact of crime on the elderly, examples of telephone scams, computer scams and mail scams, and the National Do-Not-Call Registry.
"The top senior scams today are telemarketing ... according to our national surveys," she said. "Then, of course, you have the fake charities, the sweepstakes, and once you purchase something from a company they 'sell' you to everybody else."
She also has first-hand experience with a number of scams as she lives in a retirement community and is contacted herself, Ms. D'Arcangelo said.
"You have to remember why they target them", she said. "It's because of their availability, they're home, they're less mobile and less savvy on what's going on 'out there.' And they're isolated."
Ms. D'Arcangelo has been involved with preventing senior fraud for over a year and a half. Her company, Home Instead Senior Care, is now an international company, operating on four continents. It bills itself as the largest provider of non-medical in-home services for seniors.
Her company, she said "... will provide any services that will keep a client safe and independent, whether they're at home, assisted living, nursing homes, hospitals or hotels."
Ms. D'Arcangelo's position is to help educate and warn seniors about the various ways in which they could be taken advantage. She also provides tips on what to do if you believe you are being scammed. Her checklist to help prevent exploitation includes shredding documents such as bank statements, credit card statements and offers, which provide criminals with your name and address and other financial information. Never give out personal information or agree to give money over the phone. Never provide information in a phone call that you did not originate. Post a "No Solicitation" sign on your front door.
Reporting scams also is important. The Do-Not-Call Registry, for example, has a complaint hotline at 888-225-5322.
Jenn Meale, a representative of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, provided a web page with a long list of consumer frauds from auto repair to varicose vein treatment, and how to recognize and avoid them. The website is http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/81bf89afaf04dbeb85256cc6006ff6bf
Attorney General Bondi's office also is actively pursuing a number of fraud complaints and cases including Medicaid Fraud as well as the recently reported charitable organization called Allied Veterans of the World, a $300 Million gambling scheme that resulted in 60 arrests and the resignation of Florida's Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.
The free one-hour seminar, "How To Avoid Senior Fraud" is at 11am, Wednesday, March 27, at the Grand Villa Senior Living community, 535 N. Nova Road, Ormond Beach. To reserve a seat, call 386-868-0722 by March 25.
Coincidentally the Daytona Beach Regional Library will host a senior scams seminar the same day, featuring attorney Michael Pyle. "Scams, shams and flim-flams" will be at 2 p.m. at 105 E. Magnolia Ave., Daytona Beach. For information, call (386) 257-6036, ext. 16264.