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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Town Hall Meeting In Troy On Protecting Seniors From Fraud

The United States Attorney’s Office and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, along with Friends of Troy Seniors, AARP and the Troy Police Department will come together to increase public awareness about crimes targeting seniors in our community and to offer advice on how seniors can protect themselves from financial loss.

Financial exploitation against seniors, also known as Elder Fraud, is a crime which targets older adults in an attempt to deceive them with promises of goods, services or financial benefits that don’t exist.  To bring attention to these crimes, a town hall meeting has been planned for Friday, April 11, 2014 from 9:00 am until noon at the Troy Community Center.  Highlighted speakers will include U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, and Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.

“We want to empower our seniors to recognize identity fraud and investor fraud,” United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said.  “We hope that this town hall will arm our seniors with the information they need to protect themselves.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica R. Cooper stated, "Identity theft is a multi-billion dollar crime that impacts all of us.  Annually more money is stolen at the point of a pen or the click of a computer key than any other type of crime. We hope that this town hall meeting will help our citizens to learn how to protect themselves against identity theft and other types of fraud."

Chief Gary G. Mayer, Troy Police Department stated, “It is important to the Troy Police Department to make our senior citizens aware of the latest scams so they can protect themselves.  We consistently see thieves on-line, on the phone or at the front door attempting to defraud our seniors and we are concerned.  This town hall will help to equip the seniors and their families by becoming aware of these thieves.”

Diane Alati, Board Secretary for Friends of Troy Seniors stated, “Troy area residents have been targets of identity theft in recent weeks so it is vitally important that we get the word out on how seniors can protect themselves.  If you are a senior, you should attend this town hall meeting to become an informed senior about identity theft and other types of crime that target seniors.”

While many different financial fraud schemes are perpetrated against seniors, the town hall meeting will focus on the most common – investor fraud and identity theft.

Making investments, whether in stocks, real estate, commodities or mutual funds, can be financially rewarding, but some investment opportunities are a scam, and can have a devastating effect on personal savings.   Examples of fraudulent investment schemes that will be discussed include advance fee schemes, affinity fraud, Ponzi and pyramid schemes and Internet fraud.

  • Advance Fee Schemes are schemes designed to obtain money in advance for services the promoter has no intention of providing.
  • Affinity Fraud refers to investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups.  The promoters of this type of fraud frequently are - or pretend to be - members of the group.
  • Ponzi or Pyramid Schemes are schemes where new investor money is used to make payments to earlier investors to give the illusion that the investment is successful. 
  • Internet Fraud involves use of tools such as a website, online messages or a social media site to reach a mass audience without spending a lot of time or money.  Online messaging is an easy way for promoters to make their messages look real and credible, and it is sometimes difficult for investors to tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Identity theft is the unauthorized use of someone’s personal identifying and financial information for the purpose of stealing money and good credit.  Identity theft has become one of the most costly crimes in the United States.  Each year thousands of people lose millions of dollars to identity theft.  Seniors are often vulnerable targets for identity thieves because many live alone and apart from family members and friends, have equity interests in their homes, receive Social Security checks and have excellent credit.  With so many sources of personal information available, it is nearly impossible to completely prevent the theft of one’s identity, however steps can be taken to minimize the risk. 

Being a victim of a financial fraud can have serious and long-term consequences, not only financially but emotionally as well.  Individuals who experience financial crimes report feeling isolated, hopeless, and betrayed.  Some feel embarrassed or blame themselves for what happened.  Oftentimes the person committing the fraud has some type of relationship with the victim, making it less likely the victim will report the crime to law enforcement.  The town hall will provide the opportunity to hear from victims of financial fraud and learn the steps they took to cope with and adjust to their situations.  In addition, law enforcement and community members will be on hand to provide tips on how to protect yourself from becoming the victim of a financial fraud.

The town hall is open to the public and media as well.  Registration for this event is required.  Please contact Friends of Troy Seniors at (248) 526-2608 by Wednesday, April 9.  Space is limited so please register early to secure your spot at this very important event.
Updated March 19, 2015