Con Artists Often Target Senior Citizens
9/1/2010

by State Rep. Jim Cox

129th Legislative District

 

It seems as though more and more con artists, frauds and scammers are targeting senior citizens as their potential victims.  In order to combat these schemers, it is important to understand why they target older Pennsylvanians in the first place.

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified several reasons to explain why senior citizens are often the targets of scams.

 

First of all, it is not surprising to learn that older Americans are more likely to own their own home and have excellent credit.  Many senior citizens have built up their assets – including life insurance benefits, pensions and “nest eggs” – that are enticing for scammers.  In essence, senior citizens are being targeted because, as a group, they handle their finances well.

 

Second, many senior citizens are kind, caring and generous people.  Unfortunately, con artists often look to exploit a person’s willingness to help and sense of charity.  Because of this, senior citizens should continue to be big-hearted, but should also be diligent to ensure their kindness is not misdirected.

 

Fear also plays a role.  Some senior citizens may be less likely to report a fraud because they are too ashamed and afraid of what their friends and family members may think.  Other senior citizens fail to report the crime out of fear that their loved ones may come to the false conclusion that he or she can no longer take care of his or her own finances.

 

Con artists also target senior citizens because they believe that older persons are easier to confuse.  Senior citizens may not be aware of the proper authority they should contact if they are victimized by a scammer.  Or, con artists may simply believe that senior citizens are unlikely to discover that they have been victimized.

 

To help senior citizens protect themselves, it is important to understand that there are many signs and signals that can help determine whether an activity or claim is fraudulent.

 

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office warns that con artists are often good actors who disarm their victims by coming across as “nice guys.”  As criminals go, con artists are less prone to violence and more likely to rely on their interpersonal skills to build trust with their victims.

 

While con artists may be more likely to target senior citizens, anyone can be a victim.  Even those who consider themselves too smart or sophisticated to be conned can find themselves swindled by an experienced scammer.

 

To protect yourself against potential scams and fraud, please contact my office at 610-670-0139 to obtain a copy of “A Consumer Resource Guide for Seniors:  How to Avoid Scams and Fraud.   If you feel that you may have been the victim of a scam or fraud, please contact the office of the attorney general by calling the consumer protection hotline at 800-441-2555 or the education and outreach hotline at 800-525-7642.

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