There is a new category of criminal that is emerging that merits the “Special Place In Hell” award for the most heinous offenders. Today, if you have a phone, old-fashioned dial-up landline or modern smartphone, you will get robocalls likely every day. If you are younger (meaning pre-Social Security- eligible), you probably know enough not to fall for the scam and hang up or not to answer the phone in the first place. However, think about older people with cognitive impairment, or just a little impaired judgment. You likely know someone close to you who is impaired to some degree. How well do you think that person can differentiate between a scam caller and someone who really needs their help? And, how vulnerable do you think that person is to losing their money and/or their identity to a scam caller?
There are many forms of Elder Abuse but elders getting sucked into a scam counts as one of the worst, soulless crimes that I can think of. Google “robocalls elder abuse” and read what comes up:
- 48 Billion Robocalls made in 2018 (Coast News)
- Retirees Afraid To Answer Their Phones (Washington Post)
- $488 Million Lost in 2018 (Washington Post)
- Oncology nurse loses $340,000 through a scam (Wall Street Journal)
It goes on and on. A popular scam is “Tech Support”, which really preys on elders because they aren’t necessarily as tech-savvy as are younger people. For me personally, every once in a while I get many calls right in a row from “Apple Tech Support”. Their persistence makes it sound real, but it is not. Imagine the same “Apple Tech Support” scam calling an elder over and over again until they give in to the scam? Like I said, A Special Place In Hell.
United States of America
Pundits say that the politics of the USA are hopelessly divided. I disagree because almost everyone agrees that robocalls are an evil nuisance. The good news is that politicians agree and are trying to do something. In late 2019, both houses of Congress passed the TRACED Act (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence). It gives law enforcement a longer statute of limitations to enforce robocall fraud cases in an effort to prod the telephone carriers to self-police. The bad news is that it is unlikely to be fully effective. The Do Not Call Registry has helped some, and this new TRACED Act may help more, but don’t expect robocall scams to end any time soon, and especially don’t expect elder abuse through robocalls to end because elders are the lowest-hanging fruit for scammers.
If one of the current candidates for President ran on a platform of ending robocalls and prosecuting elder abuse claims, they would win in a landslide. Unfortunately, it would be an empty campaign promise because the law allows parties to make calls and it is difficult to prove a scam before it happens. Also, the scammers protect themselves and are difficult to nab. If you don’t already detest scam robocallers enough, the next time you receive such a call, think about what would happen if this same caller contacted an elder that you know and are close to, perhaps your own parent or grandparent, and attempted to scam them. What would you be tempted to do to that robocaller? Robocaller scams are elder abuse and are a very significant financial planning issue as well as an elder care and law enforcement issue.