Recently, the IRS reported that identity thieves file fraudulent tax returns and wait for the money to be deposited into bank accounts. The scammers, pretending to be from the IRS, follow up with calls to try to con the taxpayers into sending them this money.
Although anyone can become a victim of a fraud scheme, scammers view the elderly as easy prey. Older people who live with isolation, loneliness and a decline in thinking and memory skills make them more susceptible to these crimes.
While some thieves operate within organized crime rings, many do not. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that 90 percent of the perpetrators are family members or people the victims know well, such as neighbors, friends or caregivers.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that elder abuse, including financial exploitation, causes elderly death at a rate three times faster than for those who haven’t been abused.
In Texas we must be on high alert. Between 2010 and 2017, our state experienced the largest senior population increase nationwide, both in number and percentage change, with an additional 3.1 million seniors — up 12.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Williamson County saw an even more dramatic increase in the senior population between 2010 and 2016, with a gain of 24,405 people, or a 65 percent increase in the number of people at or above age 65, according to the census.
Part of my initiative includes laminated placemats with phone numbers for emergencies, social services, legal services, home repair warnings, abuse and of course, identity theft and credit card fraud handy for seniors. The placemats, with scenic local pictures on one side, are usable, washable and designed in large print.
I am very thankful to the organizations that joined us at our event. Representatives from the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area spoke of their quality services to support and advocate for the health, safety and well-being of older adults in Wilco and nine other counties. For more information please visit tinyurl.com/77tgwcv or call 512-916-6062.
Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs and staff members discussed their work with local law enforcement to investigate identity theft cases. Hobbs encourages victims of identity theft or their caregivers to contact their local law enforcement agency. To file a complaint or an application to be officially declared a victim of identity theft, please visit tinyurl.com/y8p7eu9m or call 512-943-1111.
Representatives from Texas Adult Protective Services stressed that fraud victims, including their family members or caregivers, can report abuse, neglect or exploitation. Please visit txabusehotline.org or call their abuse hotline at 800-252-5400.
University Federal Credit Union provided contact and other useful information on their handouts with tips on what to look out for to avoid fraud abuse and identity theft. UFCU warns all its customers—this warning can apply to a customer of any bank or credit union—that they never request account numbers, passwords or other personal information through an unsolicited phone call or email.
At the federal level, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging employs investigators with experience in fraud concerning retirement savings, identity theft, phone scams, Medicare, Social Security and a variety of other consumer issues important to seniors and the elderly. Please visit their website at tinyurl.com/ybz38jj5 or call their fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
At our presentations, seniors will learn about fraud in on-line fundraising, ATM shimmer scams, smishing, spoofing, email scams, fake medical claims and the need to use care with all bank and investment accounts.
We are planning more events with senior groups this fall.
BELOW IS INFORMATION FOUND ON THE BACK OF THE SENIOR FRAUD PREVENTION PLACEMATS ON PREVENTING AND REPORTING FRAUD, AS WELL AS OTHER SERVICES:
REPORTING A CRIME: CALL LAW ENFORCEMENT
FOR ALL EMERGENCIES CALL 911
Williamson County Sheriff’s Office
Victim Assistance Unit 512-943-1375
Austin Police Department 512-974-5750
Cedar Park Police Department 512-260-4600
Florence Police Department 254-793-3110
Georgetown Police Department 512-930-3510
Granger Police Department 512-859-2755 (8am-5pm)
512-595-2429 (after 5pm)
Hutto Police Department 512-759-5978
Jarrell Police Department 512-746-5333
Leander Police Department 512-528-2800
Liberty Hill Police Department 512-515-5409
Round Rock Police Department 512-218-5500
Taylor Police Department 512-352-5551
Thrall Police Department 512-898-5407
AGE of Central Texas 512-451-4611
Austin Dispute Resolution Center 512-371-0033
Capital Area Council of Governments
Area Agency on Aging 512-916-6062
City of Austin Customer Call Center 311
Drive a Senior- Round Rock, Hutto 512-310-1060
Drive a Senior- Austin, Cedar Park, Leander 512-250-5021
Faith in Action Georgetown 512-868-9544
Family Eldercare 512-450-0844
Hope Alliance 512-255-1212
Opportunities for Williamson/Burnet Counties 512-763-1400
Round Rock Area Service Center 512-244-2431
Texas Attorney General’s Office
Consumer Protection Hotline 800-621-0508
TX Dept. of Aging and Disability Services 855-937-2372
Williamson County and Cities Health District
Cedar Park 512-260-4240
Round Rock 512-248-3257
Williamson County District Attorney 512-943-1234
Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas 512-472-8303
Legal Hotline for Older Texans 800-622-2520
Texas Elder Exploitation Project 512-637-5418
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid 512-374-2700
Wants you to be safe and secure
Adult Protective Services’ (APS) Hotline Toll Free
If you suspect that a friend, relative, or neighbor is the victim of any of these:
- Neglect or Self-neglect
- Financial fraud
Call the APS hotline to report anonymously.
Please call the hotline if YOU are a victim!
HOME REPAIR WARNINGS
- NEVER do business with someone going door-to-door
- Call 911 if you feel threatened at any time by any person at your door
- DO NOT OPEN YOUR DOOR for someone you do not know just because they try to give you a business card, estimate, or contract.
- Before agreeing to any home repairs or improvements, check with the Better Business Bureau at 512-445-2911 or online at http://www.bbb.org/central-texas/.
IDENTITY THEFT AND CREDIT CARD FRAUD
Credit thieves can gather your information by:
- Obtaining lost or stolen credit cards
- Stealing from your mailbox
- Going through your trash
- Looking over your shoulder while you pay at stores or restaurants
- Requesting personal information (Social Security number, bank account numbers, date of birth, etc.) over the phone with false telephone or email solicitations
NEVER GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION TO SOMEONE WHO CALLS OR CONTACTS YOU.
JUST HANG UP!!!
To remove your number from telemarketing lists, call
- Strange charges show up on billing statements or on your bank statements
- Bills arrive from unknown sources
- You receive calls from creditors or collection agencies
- Your credit report contains inquiries or information about accounts that you did not open
THEN TAKE THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS:
- Call law enforcement immediately to report
- Call the 3 credit agencies listed below and put a security alert on your file
- Equifax 1-866-349-5191
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union 1-800-916-8800
- Contact the creditor(s) with the fraudulent account(s):
- Inform them that the account is fraudulent
- Make notes of everyone you speak with (ask for names, departments, phone extensions, and record the date)
- Make sure you understand each creditors’ process for handling a fraud claim
- Make sure you ask the creditor for a document that states you are not responsible for the debt
- Continue to check your credit reports every several months
- You are entitled to one free Credit Report each year from any one of the 3 agencies listed above