Avoid playing your part in the $2.5 billion senior fraud business

Minnesota Department of Commerce
Commissioner Mike Rothman

Older Americans are scammed out of an estimated $2.5 billion a year and an increasingly prevalent tool used by fraudsters is wire transfer fraud. Seniors are frequently tricked into wiring money, believing they are paying for the release of a grandchild from jail or to secure the payment of jackpot winnings in foreign countries. The Commerce Department reminds Minnesotans to take advantage of the strengthened consumer protections intended to fight this type of fraud.

Under the new law, when consumers send money transfers, they may request the money transmitter to notify them if a person attempts to collect their money transfer at a location other than the one designated. Consumers may also request the money transmitter provide them with verification that their money transfer was collected at the location they designated, along with the name of the person collecting it.

Also included in the new law are expanded tools for the Commerce Department to regulate the industry and increased penalties for bad actors.

If seniors use a money transmitter to send money, they should use the destination provision. With this new law, the money transmitter must promptly notify the sender if someone has tried to access the transfer in a different location.

Warning signs:
If you are concerned that a senior might be a victim of fraud and financial abuse, be on the lookout for unusual behaving including:
• unusual banking transactions inconsistent with past behavior
• uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money or closing accounts without regard to penalties
• changes in spending habits, such as giving large, unexpected gifts, suddenly missing routine bills payments, or developing secrecy about money
• confusion over recent financial transactions that included property transfers, refinanced mortgages
• legal documents, such as wills, have unexplained changes
• a lack of basic amenities
• belongings have gone missing
• a new friend has taken an unusual interest and has assumed power of attorney or gained access to financial accounts
• a caregiver is unable to adequately provide for the senior’s basic needs and is secretive about the senior’s finances

Statistics show that up to 80 percent of elder financial abuse goes unreported. Victims are often embarrassed, afraid of their abuser, or fear of losing their freedom.

Protect yourself, others
• End the call – There is no such thing as being rude when protecting yourself and your investments from scammers. Trust your instincts. If you do not remember buying a lottery ticket or entering a sweepstakes, the call is most likely a scam.  If you receive a call from a family member in danger, hang up and call loved ones to verify.

• Phone a friend — When Commissioner Rothman’s grandmother is called by a solicitor over the phone, the first thing she does is call Commissioner Rothman. You should identify a trusted friend or family member you can call for questions and advice.

• Report the fraud – The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help. Report the fraud so others don’t fall victim to the same scam.

— The Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Help Line can be reached by phone at (651) 539-1600 or (800) 657-3602. Complaints can also be sent by email to consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 E. Seventh Place, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55101.


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