“Be careful then how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15 – 16 NIV
Consumer fraud crime statistics in our country are shocking. According to congressional hearings, adults age 55-plus make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet they are victims of more than 40 percent of consumer fraud. One reason for this statistical disparage is many fraud schemes are directed toward them.
Telemarketing fraud alone cheats Americans out of $40 billion annually and, according to AARP studies, more than 50 percent of telemarketing victims are age 50-plus. When other forms of fraud are included, such as bogus sweepstakes, door-to-door sales, financial/ investment schemes, identity theft, home maintenance scams and Internet fraud, one can understand why scamming mature adults is a multi-billion dollar a year business.
The first reason the fraudster targets adults age 55-plus is they know these individuals were generally raised to be polite and trusting. These are two very commendable and positive traits, except when it comes to dealing with fraud artists.
Criminals exploit these traits knowing mature adults find it difficult to say “No,” to walk away from the situation or to hang up the phone.
A second reason con artists target the 55-plus adults is these folks tend to be home more, thus are more easily reached by phone or door-to-door contacts. In addition, scam artists know most older adult are willing to talk to strangers at their door or on the telephone. The con artist knows the more people are willing to talk to him, the better his chances are to make a financial killing.
Adults age 55-plus are the most likely age group to have a “nest egg,” more disposable income, excellent credit ratings and qualify for larger credit card limits. To the scam artist, that means there is a large cash pool waiting for them to tap into. Fraudsters know the easiest place to find money is to focus on those in our population most likely to be in a financial position to buy their product, which are adults age 55-plus.
Concern about their financial future is the fourth reason adults 55-plus are targets of fraud. Fraudsters know older adults are concerned about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement and leave to their heirs. These hucksters will use these fears to lure unsuspecting adults into entering sweepstakes, lotteries or high risk investments. Financial concerns and the lure of big money leads many mature adults to make bad financial choices.
The final reason scammers target adults age 55-plus is it works!
Because of the magnitude of fraud crimes in our nation, every maturing adult needs to know how to avoid fraud and scams. The next several columns will be dedicated to identifying various types of fraud and ways we can avoid a fraud victim.
Adults age 55-plus need to live by these words of Jesus: “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)
Frank E. Fain is the director of senior adult ministries and educational services for The Baptist Home. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns appear monthly in Word&Way.