CHARLESTON, WV — The start of March launches “Consumer Protection Week,” a week devoted to helping consumers make well-informed decisions about money. Perfect timing, coming just days after United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced indictments in the largest case of elder fraud prosecuted in the state of West Virginia.
According to the latest report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, elder financial exploitation quadrupled from 2013 to 2017.
“Con-men are very, very smart,” explained AARP West Virginia’s Associate State Director, Linda Bunn.
“They have been doing this for eons. They used to travel into town in a wagon selling snake oil. Things have just changed a bit with the times.”
Times that now include social media. Today, AARP continues the fight against fraud, using 21st century technology to teach people how to spot and avoid fraud and scams so they can protect themselves and their families.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network, established in 2013, is a free resource that offers real-time Watchdog Alerts about the latest scams, tips on how to spot them and inside scoops on how to outsmart con artists. AARP also offers the toll-free Fraud Watch Helpline, where trained AARP volunteer Fraud Fighters offer peer counseling, support and referral services to fraud victims and their families.
Often times, people think seniors are targeted because of a possible lack of understanding when it comes to technology, but Bunn said that is not always the case.
“I think it is more of a culture thing for people that are a little bit older. They trust a little bit more,” explained Bunn. “And social media is just an extension of that regular face to face trust.”
Scammers tend to target people’s emotions. Whether it is making a person think they’ve found a new love, maybe a sick family member, or someone they loved was involved in a serious accident.
AARP suggests taking a step back before making a decision.
“Think about it, take a step back, think about it, take 24 hours to think about it. And realize that if they were standing right next to you, you would say no,” explained Bunn.
A statement echoed by United States Attorney Mike Stuart.
“If it can’t wait 24 hours, then you probably shouldn’t do it. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”