ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and a coalition of groups in Maryland are marking the day with a week-long campaign to raise awareness around protecting older Americans from financial exploitation.
Hank Greenberg, state director for AARP Maryland, a co-sponsor of the campaign, said scams and frauds against folks over the age of 55 increased dramatically during the pandemic, as criminals used more sophisticated methods to separate folks from their money.
He pointed out the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, keeps track of scam numbers and noted pandemic relief packages over the past year brought in a lot of cash, but thieves are following the money and targeting seniors through phone and computer scams.
“In the first three months of this year alone, the FTC said that 30,664 cases of fraud have already been reported in Maryland,” Greenberg explained. “And that’s almost double the number of cases that were reported this time last year.”
He added the scams resulted in losses totaling more than $16 million, and is most likely underreported, since many people are embarrassed to report they’ve lost money, especially if a family member is involved.
If you or a loved one suspects financial fraud of an elder, call the Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.
Brian Frosh, Maryland Attorney General, said the average victim of elder financial abuse loses upwards of $120,000 dollars. He emphasized there are ways to protect yourself. You should use strong passwords, don’t answer calls from unrecognized numbers, and don’t get into conversations with strangers on the phone.
“Don’t pay with gift cards, don’t pay anything with a wire transfer,” Frosh advised. “Pay with a credit card if you can; that way if you find you’ve been scammed, the credit-card company can help you get your money back.”
One in 20 older adults say they’ve experienced some form of financial abuse in the recent past, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association. Yet only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.