Professionals advise the Community on preventing elder fraud
September 2, 2016
Gila River Indian News
Fraud can be a frightening experience for anyone and it can take a lot of time and effort to clear things up with the banks, credit card companies and the authorities.
It’s a crime we don’t think can happen to us, but it is a good subject to be aware of, especially among the elderly.
The Gila River Indian Community Caregivers Program, the Tribal Per Capita Office and the Arizona Attorney Generals Office discussed the issue of elder fraud during a presentation held at the District 6 Elderly Center on Aug. 12.
Caregiver Coordinator Mario Torres said that it is important for the elders to know about what kinds of measures are being taken to prevent elderly fraud.
Betty Delano, who was also on hand, with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said that her department provides outreach to the elderly on fraud awareness.
Recently, there has been an increase in businesses that offer easy-to-use paycards to patrons.
“We have had a few families who are concerned about their elderly members going to [these] one-stop check cashing places located off of the Community,” said Torres.
District 7 Elderly Liaison Caseworker Mary Kris Kyyitan said that one of her elderly clients, who didn’t have a bank account was using a paycard service that charged hefty fees for using the service.
The concern is that elders may not be aware of the high fees when they sign up for a paycard, which can lead to not having enough funds to buy essential goods.
Paycards function like a debit or credit card and are mainly used by individuals who do not have a bank account.
The paycard can be reloaded at any time through the routing of funds from an employer or other sources of income like a social security or per capita check.
From service to service the monthly maintenance fees and usage fees vary on what is charged to the balance of the card.
“We want to make sure [you] are not taken advantage of and that we have taken steps and measures to prevent it from happening to [you],” said Kyyitan. “Hopefully you can let people know about [this], because there may be more people out there that are using [this] service.”
Joanne Miles-Long, a Supervisor with the Tribal Per Capita Office was discussed ways to prevent fraudulent acts from happening to elders who receive per capita payments.
“It’s a source of income for [us] and could be subject to fraud and abuse if we are not careful about how we handle it,” said Miles-Long. “Keep [your] address and phone number updated…because [that] information will come into our database to ensure that your check is going to the correct address.”
Instead of being mailed a per capita check there are other alternatives for elders to get their per capita check.
The options include picking it up in person, having it direct deposited into a bank account or receive a Bank of America paycard.
She said using the Bank of America paycard involves minimal fees and there is more security that other companies don’t offer.
More recently, fraud has gone beyond the physical means of stealing, because many scammers have turned to doing their business online to prey on the elderly.
Delano said a growing trend many criminals will turn to is soliciting goods and services through phishing scams and pretending to be family members, charities and lottery drawings.
These types of scams appear in the form of an advertisement or email asking for bank account numbers and Social Security Numbers in order to lure people into giving financial information away.
Miles-Long said, “In this day and age, emails can contain malware or computer viruses that could retrieve information unknowingly from the person infected.”
Torres said, “Some situations that involve elders arise from when family members steal from their elderly relative.”
Check fraud, stolen property and identity are serious crimes with severe consequences.
He said the moral of the story is to use common sense and to be very aware of who has access to your information.
Delano said, “The general rule about fraud is the old adage, ‘If its too good to be true, it probably is.’”