A few weeks ago, we did an opinion article on how bold phone thieves have become, even taunting police in Lackawanna County about not being caught.

Since then, we learned that the rampant amount of scams targeting seniors are being called the crime of the 21st century. A study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute estimated that seniors lose approximately $2.6 billion per year as a result of financial abuse including fraud as well as theft by family members and acquaintances.

Just last week a suburban Philadelphia man was convicted of scamming more than $700,000 from nearly 250 elderly people by preying on their health concerns and the desire to remain in their own homes. The scheme involved a business promising non-medical home care. The targeted victims were mostly retired teachers who were widowed and lived alone without family nearby.

According to the National Council on Aging, the top 10 scams targeting seniors are 1. Health care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud; 2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs; 3. Funeral & Cemetery scams; 4. Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products; 5. Telemarketing; 6. Internet Fraud; 7. Investment Schemes 8. Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Scams; 9. Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams; and 10. The Grandparent Scam.

Financial scams often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they're considered a "low-risk" crime. Not just wealthy seniors are being targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse.

The Grandparent Scam is especially deceptive since it plays on the emotions of seniors.

The phony caller posing as a grandchild can use an opening line like: "Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?" When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild, the faker will then ask for money for some financial problem like an overdue rent or a car repair bill.

After asking for money, the scam artist might request that the grandparent "please not tell my parents, they would kill me."

Another trick is the Fake Accident Ploy, where the con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person's child or another relative is in the hospital and needs the money.

With the fraud business booming, thieves know there's a big market in the mining of personal information, and that can start with your name, address and telephone number. Adults would be wise to check with their elderly parents to make sure they don't take the bait and give out any personal information to strangers.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com