Studies show that fraudulent telemarketers direct 56 to 80 percent of their calls to senior citizens, the fastest-growing segment of America's population. Because senior citizens are a prime target for con artists and thieves, Sheriff Greg Champagne joined the National Crime Prevention Council in helping seniors resist home improvement scams and telemarketing fraud.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, older Americans are targeted for fraud for many reasons. One fact known by con-artists is the victim's age. Elderly people are likely to have a nest egg and have excellent credit, becoming a prime target for those looking to take their money.
The elderly are less likely to report fraud because they don't know who to report it to or are too ashamed at having been scammed, or do not know they have been scammed.
Spring often triggers home improvement scams. Many homeowners' thoughts turn to projects ranging from roof repairs to house painting. A favorite target for con-artists is low-income, elderly homeowners.
Sheriff Champagne said, "A little extra caution can go a long way in preventing home improvement problems and headaches for you and your family. Take your time in making decisions on contract work for your home.”
When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. The con-artist knows the effects of age on memory and he/she is counting on the fact that the elderly victim will not be able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. Con-artists usually target their victims over an extended period of time. This can challenge the memory of the victim and they will not be able to provide information such as: How many times did the fraudster call? Did he provide a call back number or address? What did the fraudster look like? Etc.
Using high pressure tactics, these criminals either sell overpriced materials and repairs that are not necessary or “take the money and run,” never completing the work.
Attorney General Charles C. Foti, Jr., announced that his office will create a series of telemarketing fraud flyers aimed at educating the elderly population. The flyers will be distributed to at least 22,000 home-bound Louisiana residents, age 60 and older. The Attorney General's office will work with more than 25 parish Councils on Aging and local Meals on Wheels programs to have the flyers delivered to individual homes.
"One of the most prevalent forms of fraud we face today is from bogus telemarketing schemes. The perpetrators of this crime tend to target the elderly because they are the most vulnerable and the most available to telephone solicitors," said Attorney General Foti.
The program proposed by Foti will include flyers which will contain fraud prevention tips on how to address telemarketing calls and contact information to report possible fraud.
"I believe this program is especially important in light of the fact that many are still suffering from the after effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," General Foti added.