Officials warn of senior scams, abuse

By Matt Lasley - [email protected]

Law enforcement and bank officials are warning the public of scams and exploitation geared toward the elderly.

According to Cecilian Bank Security Officer Sherman Tebault, who is also retired from the Kentucky State Police, scams geared toward the elderly, as well as financial exploitation of the elderly may be on the rise.

Detective Kevin Smith, of the Leitchfield Police Department, said such activity has occurred locally, and he and Tebault offered tips for local individuals to protect themselves.

Citizens are encouraged to keep their checkbooks secure, and to always seek out reputable vendors when in need of home or vehicle repairs, Smith said.

Additionally, citizens are advised to never pay for anything in advance.

Tebault advised citizens to never give out their banking information to anyone who calls them, regardless of whether the caller claims to be from their bank.

“If the bank’s calling you, they know who you are,” Tebault said, adding that banks will already have their customers’ information on file.

“Never do we ask for any information over the phone,” said Tebault.

Another scam banks often see is checks sent to citizens that are claimed to be winnings from an out-of-country lottery. Victims will be given a check and asked to wire money to pay for taxes, and the check will likely bounce or be counterfeit.

Additionally, participation in out-of-country lotteries is illegal, according to Tebault, who advised that any such checks individuals receive should be promptly thrown in the trash.

The public should also be on the lookout for “too-good-to-be-true” offers for Craigslist postings.

Victims will advertise for a service on Craigslist, and scammers will offer to pay more than the advertised price.

Scammers send checks that will almost always require victims to send money to someone else, and the check the victims receive will come back counterfeit or fictitious, Tebault said.

While banks and law enforcement are vigilant about watching for scams, after a victim has sent money to the scammer, the money cannot be retrieved, according to Tebault.

Such scams occur frequently, Tebault said, but some of the worst crimes committed against senior citizens are done so by family members.

Banks and law enforcement have become more and more aware of financial exploitation of the elderly, which may be on the rise due to the increase in senior citizens and mature “baby boomers,” as well as the difficult state of the economy, according to Tebault.

“People prey on their honesty and compassion,” Smith said.

Frequently, a child or grandchild will offer to take care of his or her elderly parent or grandparent, and he or she will request to be placed on the senior citizen’s banking.

Tebault said an elderly individual may likely have a nest egg he or she can rely on to see him or her through financially, but if other family members are given access to their elderly relative’s bank account, they can use it as they see fit, and they may not use it for the senior.

“Elderly folks need to be very careful,” Tebault said. “Sometimes a family member is not the best person to be taking care of you.”

Tebault also advised that senior citizens be cautious when assigning power of attorney, which can also be exploited at the senior’s loss.

“We watch for it, but it’s a delicate situation that we have to tread,” Tebault said.

By Matt Lasley

[email protected]

Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.

Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.

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