We’re talking about the lottery scam that seems to continually make victims of our elderly residents. It is not unusual for our victims to lose thousands of dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars. What we do want is to try to come up with a solution to a problem that starts where we can’t be.
These things start as phone calls, letters and emails. Some type of communication that promises big things. Talk to your loved ones about these types of communications. Help educate them on what to watch for or be aware of. Set junk and spam filters on email to help keep the scams out of your loved one's email inbox.
The second part of this scam is the withdrawal of money or purchase of large sums of gift cards. That’s where the banks and businesses come in. This may be something a bit more difficult to accomplish because there’s always the worry that you might offend someone if you ask or maybe you are concerned about company policy. We want businesses to start what-if type dialogs to address these types of purchases. Discuss what may look out of place, what is worth making further inquiries about and call police when it happens.
Here’s the big point we learned that we want to make sure people know. Elder abuse requires mandatory reporting and banks employees, by law, are mandatory reporters. Just like child abuse must be reported by certain groups of people, elder abuse has mandatory reporting guidelines and this type of fraud or exploitation is covered by elder abuse. So how does this apply to a bank or financial institution? Like doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care providers, bank officers and any other officers of financial institutions are required to report this type of activity to police. Worried about violating someone’s privacy? Don’t, as a mandatory reporter you are protected from privacy violations (KSA 39-1402).
When the money is passed down the road, the victim and the scammer are commonly the only two parties that are “present” or participants in this part. This is why it is imperative to be involved before it gets to this point.
One more thing that seems to be common practice with our scammers - after they start getting money from our victims and that money is cut off by the victim or victim’s family, they start to threaten violence. They make claims that they know where you live, have financial or medical information and so on. In most cases, these scammers are thousands of miles away, maybe even in different countries, but they can seem very convincing and cause a lot of distress. It’s just something else they do to keep money coming.
Police only hear about the scam after the money is gone. By that time, it’s usually too late and these cases can be very difficult to follow up on and close. The best way to combat any crime is to stop it from even happening. This crime is no different. Through some mandatory reporting, maybe we can prevent it from happening in the future.