SEATTLE - Opening junk mail, attending a free lunch seminar or entering contests may all seem like harmless activities, but they're actually the top behaviors that put older consumers at risk for fraud, a new report finds.
The year-long national study
surveyed hundreds of people age 50 and older who have fallen victim to some of today's biggest scams.
Doug Shadel, AARP Washington
state director and a co-author of the study, says almost two-thirds of older fraud victims did at least two of the risky behaviors.
"Exposing yourself on a regular basis - that does put people in harm's way. Many more of the victims did two or more of these behaviors that put them in sales situations. If you start doing multiples of these things, that really does put you in harm's way."
As con artists become more sophisticated, it's difficult to spot every scam, Shadel says, and it becomes even more important to take some preventive steps to protect your pocketbook. Those tips include signing up for the federal Do Not Call list, checking references of businesses and waiting 24 hours after any sales pitch before making a purchase.
The problem is much bigger than statistics show, the AARP study found, since only one in four victims actually reported being scammed to law enforcement. While it is unfortunate, Shadel says, you can't get any help if you suffer in silence.
"A lot of people say, 'Well, I was just kind-of embarrassed about it.' There's nothing to be ashamed of about this. There are millions of people who fall for these types of scams out there, and we will never catch the bad guys if we don't get these reports coming in."
Investment-fraud victims tend to be married older men with higher incomes and education levels, the report found, hile lottery-fraud victims were mostly older single people with lower incomes and education levels.
Read the report at aarp.org/fraudvictimstudy