EverSafe Newsletter

SENIOR FINANCIAL PROTECTION NEWS

Providing thought-provoking articles, commentary and general information on issues related to aging and financial health.

February: The Month for Romance

SCAMS TARGETING SENIORS STILL RAMPANT

Older Americans lose tens of millions to romance scams, and the number of complaints filed has risen dramatically in recent years. Adults reported losing more money to romance scams in the last two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC. Hands holding a cell phone.From 2015-2019, there were 84,119 romance-scam complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And this figure doesn’t reflect the number of romance fraud cases that went unreported because victims were embarrassed, ashamed, or unable to report due to issues like cognitive impairment. Loneliness is one factor that makes older adults particularly vulnerable to scams. According to an AARP summary of FTC data, “Online daters of all ages have fallen victim to the cruel crooks who break hearts and empty bank accounts. But…while the overall median loss resulting from a romance scam was $2,600, the median jumped to $10,000 when the victim was age 70 or older.” Most of the money stolen was wired, according to victims who reported. Another common method of transferring funds, according to the FTC, was “…using gift and reload cards (like Moneypak)…People said they mailed the cards or gave the PIN number on the back to the scammer. Con artists favor these payment methods because they can get quick cash, the transaction is largely irreversible, and they can remain anonymous.” How can victims be protected from romance scammers? Tips from the FTC include the following:

  • Don’t send money or gifts to a sweetheart that you haven’t met in person.
  • Talk with someone you trust about a new love interest. Pay attention if friends or family are concerned.
  • Take the new romance—slow. Ask questions and be mindful of inconsistent answers.
  • Try doing an online reverse-image search of the profile picture. If the image is associated with another person’s name, or details don’t match up, it is likely a scam.

Family members can help each other look out for romance scams by forming a team of loved ones and/or professionals who keep an eye on each other’s finances. Alerts for suspicious activity, like new wired funds, prepaid gift cards, or large withdrawals of cash, can be shared—across the miles. Shutting down romance fraud at its inception can prevent tremendous heartache and the loss of life savings, as well.

GOVERNMENT / LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

NEW YORK LEGISLATION FOCUSED ON ELDER FRAUD

New York is the most recent state to announce legislation that will prevent seniors from being financially exploited. Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined these measures in the 2021 budget. The proposal includes the following: strengthening financial Seal of the State of New Yorkinstitutions’ ability to place a hold on a bank account of a vulnerable adult if there is sufficient reason to believe he/she is a victim of actual or attempted financial exploitation; providing banks with immunity from civil liability for placing a hold on certain suspicious transaction; and requiring reporting of that hold to Adult Protective Services. The Department of Financial Services will also create a new certification program for banking institutions to bolster training and education on elder fraud and financial exploitation.

Reversing Cognitive Decline?

PROMISING RESEARCH IN ALBANY, NEW YORK

Scientists from Albany Medical Center in upstate New York have conducted groundbreaking research that could mean progress in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. The results of this study, published in the Journal of Hands on top of a caneExperimental Medicine on Feb. 5th, highlighted the work of a team of immunologists and neuroscientists who found that targeting a specific immune cell, known as “group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s)” in the brain may improve age-related cognitive decline. According to a piece in CBS News, these immune cells help repair parts of the central nervous system. Using mice to conduct their research, they discovered that these cells collect in the part of the brain called the choroid plexus—a specialized brain barrier that provides a toxin barrier to the brain and other central nervous system tissue. They also found that these cells accumulate with age and have beneficial effects in alleviating cognitive decline in mice.

SCAM ALERT

ROMANCE SCAMS ABOUND IN THE WAKE OF VALENTINES DAY

They are sometimes called “lonely heart” scams. Case in point: an older Oregon widower recently lost $200,000 in an online romance scam. The fraud scheme originated when he met a woman on an online dating service. Over the next several months, thinking that he would help his new friend invest in an art gallery, he wired payments to overseas accounts.

Scam Alert on KeyboardThe pandemic makes romance scams a jackpot for fraudsters. Many of us are still sheltering in place. Older adults, including widows and widowers, are often targeted as they may be lonely for companionship. Social media sites like Facebook and dating apps are a breeding ground for these schemes.

Unfortunately, there are older "lonely hearts" all over the country who are now communicating with romance scammers, and their family members are not made aware of these relationships. The Federal Trade Commission reported over $300 million in losses from romance scams last year. I think we all agree that it is safest never to talk to strangers. But understanding that some folks will not follow this advice, here are a few tips about romance scams to share with loved ones:

  • Be extremely wary about anyone you meet on social media. Even games like Words With Friends can expose you to scammers lurking on the site.
  • Before conversing with any new ‘friends' online, make sure that all public-facing personal information is hidden from your profile. If you have trouble with this task – get help from a tech-savvy family member or friend.
  • Warn family members, young and old, about online romance/friendship fraud. Encourage them to talk with you about new friends.
  • If communicating with an online acquaintance turns into a conversation about a crisis or problem in their life, this should be viewed as a huge red flag. And if the conversation evolves into a request for money or a loan, the dialogue should be ended immediately.

A comprehensive fraud-prevention service will send an alert to members and designated loved ones – at the first sign of suspicious activity. These alerts can warn you that a loved one is in trouble – as experience has shown that victims of these scams are often too embarrassed to share what is happening.

VALENTINE’S DAY NEWS—80 WIDOWER LOSES $200K IN ROMANCE FRAUD

An Oregon octogenarian lost $200,000 in a sophisticated online romance scam. The fraud began with the theft of a Florida’sScam in white on red background with Alert in white on black background. woman identity, according to the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation. The scammer then used the stolen identity to befriend and romance the 80-year-old through an online dating service. The romantic talk soon evolved into a proposal to support an art gallery in Florida, and the widower was induced to make a series of payments over several months to “various individuals and overseas bank accounts,” totaling in excess of $200,000. The scammer promised the victim that these “investments” would be repaid, with a percentage of the profits. The fraudsters have not yet been apprehended.

Retirement Age in the US & Around the World

IS IT NOW EXCEEDING 65?

People once thought of ‘retirement age’ as 65 years old. That may be changing. Recent research by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement looked at the age at which workers now expect to retire Elderly couples sitting on a bench with the ocean in front of themfrom their employment. The new age is nearing 67 years old. And according to an NBC piece summarizing the study, “a majority of US workers—54% plan to stop working at some point after 65, or never at all.” Interestingly, the research also concluded that only about 30% feel very confident that they will be able to retire “in a lifestyle they consider comfortable—indicating a tacit understanding that retirement planning is falling short of what is required.” The report established five fundamentals for retirement readiness: starting to save early and habitually; developing a written retirement strategy; creating a backup plan for unforeseen events; adopting a healthy lifestyle; and embracing lifelong learning. These are excellent tips for anyone—expecting to retire or not!