Don’t Let Your Mother-In-Law Get Duped- Part 2

Tom, 40, received a call at work and saw “Internal Revenue Service” on his caller ID. He picked up right away and an aggressive man with an accent told him that he owes a large sum of money due to a tax mistake. He was warned that if he doesn’t wire the money to a specific location, he will be arrested and his driver’s license will be revoked. Tom knew it was a scam, so he told off the caller and threatened to call the police. When he hung up, he pondered whether his 75-year-old mother or his 83-year-old mother-in-law, who are both very trusting, would have known it was a scam. Chances are, they may have complied with the man’s request.

Seniors lose billions a year to scams, including phony lottery and sweepstakes seeking upfront fees to enter or collect; government impostors posing as reps from Social Security and Medicare; the grandparents scam, in which a grandchild is supposedly in deep trouble; offers for free or discount medications (including anti-aging drugs) or medical equipment; and credit card fraud and investment schemes. There are also a few recent ones that the FBI and state government offices are issuing warnings about, involving deeds and tax refunds. See below for more details on the top scams to look out for:

    • IRS Tax Scams: The Internal Revenue Service recently issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, which can include pervasive telephone scams, such as the one in our example, false promises of free money from “inflated refunds,” and others as listed on the IRS Website.Taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The IRS has a special section on dedicated to identity theft issues and other scams, which includes YouTube videos, tips for taxpayers and an assistance guide. For victims, the information includes how to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit. For other taxpayers, there are tips on how taxpayers can protect themselves against identity theft.
      • Charity scams. Although the most lucrative charity cons now involve fake charities that spring up following a natural disaster, those alleging to benefit disabled military veterans and active-duty personnel remain popular hoaxes. Others include phony charities purporting to aid sick children, police and firefighters. So beware: Historically, military-related charity scams tend to increase around Independence Day, along with Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Before donating — especially when contacted by telephone — know how to check out a charity’s legitimacy.
      • Online greeting card scams. Fraudulent online greeting cards  unleash malware to give cyber crooks remote access to your files, online banking accounts and passwords for possible identity theft, or enlist your computer as a spam-sending “botnet.” Keep in mind that whenever you receive an email promising an electronic greeting card, don’t click on embedded links — especially if the sender is an unnamed “friend.” Even if you do recognize the sender’s name, realize that legitimate e-cards will have a confirmation code, which you can enter at the card company’s website to read the card.
      • Deed Scam: Be cautious of companies offering to sell you a copy of the deed to your home. Homeowners throughout the state of Virginia have been receiving official looking letters, often titled as a “Deed Processing Notice,” that offer to sell them a copy of their deed for $83. The letters specify that homeowners must comply by a specific date. Often these letters are received shortly after you’ve purchased your house or refinanced your mortgage. “Even though these letters look like official notices, they are actually solicitations and should be treated as such,” Attorney General Herring said. You should never need to pay to get a copy of your recorded deed, because you always get the original deed back within a few months after closing – directly from the Settlement Agent who handled your closing. Read our blog post entitled “Beware of Deed Scam” for more details.
      • Sweepstakes and lottery scams: Mailed sweepstakes or lottery scams often request upfront payment for taxes, insurance or other fees to “collect” a prize that never arrives. The inside of the envelope often features images of American flags, eagles and even a  “Don’t tamper with under federal penalty” notice to suggest these letters are “from” the U.S. Postal Service. Such patriotic symbols are purposely used by scammers to increase the odds that recipients will open the envelope and take the bait.
      • Using Fraudulent Legal Documents: Many scammers cloak their actions in legal authority, procuring a power of attorney or will or other legal document giving them access to a senior’s property. They get seniors to sign these documents by lying, intimidation, or threatening of the seniors. To ensure that this does not happen, make sure that your documents are done in a safe and ethical manner by a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as myself. Make her aware that any other estate planning or incapacity documents presented as hers are not authentic.

Of course, there are plenty of other scams out there, including advance-fee loans, fake checks and identity theft. Read the first part of this article, “Don’t Let Your Mother-In-Law Get Duped” for more details. In addition, you can visit the FBI Common Fraud Schemes Web page or the Better Business Bureau Scam Stopper Web page for more details and be sure to report any scams to the Better Business Bureau.

How can you help a loved one steer clear of scams without hurting their feelings? Here are five approaches that might work, from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.

1. Don’t just tell your parent to hang up or throw out the letter. Have a talk about why. Explain that “you can’t win a contest you didn’t enter,” or “you never have to pay fees to collect lottery winnings,” or “Government agencies don’t make unsolicited phone calls and never ask for personal information, because they’ve already got it on file.”

2. Don’t shame or blame. Remind them what they taught you decades ago: Don’t trust strangers — especially those seeking personal information and money.

3. Try reverse psychology. If you become aware that an aged parent is playing a sweepstakes or making a “double your money” investment, ask how you can do the same. Psychologists say this tactic sometimes prompts a warning — your parent doesn’t want you to lose money, too. That’s your cue to ask, “Then why do you do it?” This could start a conversation that helps the parent come to terms with the scam.

4. Suggest how others could be protected. Talk with your victimized parents about how their experience could be important for other people facing the same situation: “The authorities are looking for these guys, so maybe you can help others.” This may make them willing to part with the details of what happened.

5.  If you don’t live nearby, ask a trusted neighbor to be your eyes and ears. What kind of mail is coming into the house? Does there seem to be a pattern of scam callers on the phone? These could suggest that your folks are on lists for sweepstakes and “investment opportunities.” These lists are developed and sold among scammers to identify past victims as candidates for future fraud.

Keeping up with scams that are affecting consumers is important. It is also very important to keep up with your planning. If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Estate Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning, or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please contact The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. as soon as possible at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to schedule your appointment for our introductory consultation.

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