Legal Counsel for the Elderly has been assisting D.C. seniors for more than 40 years. (Courtesy of AARP)
**FILE** Legal Counsel for the Elderly has been assisting D.C. seniors for more than 40 years. (Courtesy of AARP)

The COVID-19 health pandemic has brought increased assistance for District residents but also served as a boon for scam artists who have targeted senior citizens.

While many District residents are connected to open sources of information by way of the internet and a healthy social network, most elderly individuals remain less engaged and unaware of suspicious activity and theft attempts.

“We’re all isolated right now but seniors, even more so. Isolation, we know, can lead to loneliness and that could make someone more likely to stay on the phone with someone they don’t know longer, or maybe to answer the door and start chatting with a stranger, or be online more,” said Deborah Cuevas Hill, senior staff attorney for Legal Counsel for the Elderly’s Consumer Advocacy and Home Preservation Practice.

Reports provided by the organization note increases of targeted seniors being solicited by individuals offering paid services to help elderly residents apply for unemployment, selling fake COVID-19 vaccines and a plethora of fraudulent services.

Scammer creativity crosses the threshold of telephone or mailing inquiries, as many scam attempts transcend into cybercrimes where ruthless individuals pin elder residents’ email accounts or provide false links which replicate reputable organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and others.

The current health pandemic, which has forced most residents to stay in their homes, has created longer idle periods for seniors citizens, leaving many to be more susceptible to fraudulent outreach.

“Some seniors have been able to accumulate a nest egg, so to speak, so they have some accumulated wealth and they’re on a fixed income,” Cuevas Hill said. “So that isolation coupled with a nest egg that scammers want to wipe out makes seniors a prime target.”

The intrusive fraud attempts present a serious threat beyond senior resident’s financial security including threats to their physical well-being. Fraud artists continue to conduct physical canvasing when soliciting potential victims, knocking on doors, or slipping flyers under resident entries.

The Elder Abuse section of the District Office of Attorney General works to investigate inquiries reported by residents in regards to fraud attempts on senior citizens.

The Legal Counsel for The Elderly encourages family members to pay attention to conversations with elderly family members. Elderly residents who mention speaking with someone offering gift cards or being asked to provide personal information such as their date of birth or social security number, especially from individuals with whom family members are unfamiliar, should raise red flags.

“You would hope that your senior loved one would give that level or detail, but really just listening to how they’re doing and who they’re talking to would be something I would advise,” Cuevas Hill said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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