Among our greatest challenges as a nation
today is making America a safe place
to grow old
.”  — Lisa Nerenberg


Learn about Mass Marketing Fraud

“Mass marketing” crimes are crimes in which perpetrators use technology to target and defraud many people, often from distant locations, including other countries. Although people of any age can be victimized, many perpetrators target elders. For example, the National Crime Prevention Council reports that fraudulent telemarketers direct anywhere from 56 to 80 percent of their calls at older Americans.

Resources on Mass Marketing Fraud

  • 6 Myths About Scams and Mass Marketing Fraud against the Elderly [pdf]
  • Crimes of Persuasion. This Web site is operated by Les Henderson, an expert on fraud, including pyramid schemes, investment fraud, ponzi schemes, Nigerian advance fee fraud, and other crimes. The site has excellent and easy to read descriptions of restitution, forfeiture, subprime rate lending, and myriad scams.
  • Deem, D. L. (2000). Notes from the field: Observations in working with the forgotten victims of personal financial crimes. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect,, 12(2), 33-48.
  • Deem, D., Nerenberg, L., & Titus, R. (2007). Victims of financial crime. In R. C. Davis, A. J. Lurigio & S. Herman (Eds.), Victims of Crime (3 ed.).
  • The 2006 identity fraud survey report [pdf]. This report, produced by Javelin Strategy and Research and the Better Business Bureau, reveals that for every case of identity theft, there is 36% chance of identifying the fraud operator. Of those cases where the fraud operator is known, over half are closely connected to the victim, as relatives, co-workers, friends, neighbors or in-home employees. In addition, losses increase as the relationship of the victim to the fraud operator gets closer.
  • Pratkanis, A. R., & Shadel, D. (2005). Weapons of fraud:  A source book for fraud fighters. To obtain a copy, see AARP's Web site
  • Off the Hook Again: Understanding Why the Elderly Are Victimized by Economic Fraud Crimes [pdf]. This report by the Consumer Fraud Research Group for WISE Senior Services and the NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) Investor Education Foundation, revealed that fraud pitches are tailored to meet the psychological needs of a potential senior victim.
  • Identity theft prevention and best practices. This Web forum, sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime, is hosted by Jim Wright, Director of the Seniors and Crime Prevention Initiative at the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and former Director of TRIAD, a program of the National Sheriff’s Association.

Promising Practices:

  • It’s MI Identity,” a program of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, was created to: 1) raise awareness about how senior citizens can prevent identity theft; 2) assist state and local law enforcement combat identity theft in the senior population; and 3) determine the extent of victimization in resident care facilities. Activities include facility-wide credit checks for residents. The program was launched in response to investigations that revealed that resident care facility employees, pool agency employees, and individuals posing as employees, were using their position to gain access to important personal information, which they used to obtain credit cards and access financial accounts. For more information on “It’s MI Identity,” visit the Web site of Michigan’s attorney general at http://www.michigan.gov/ag.
  • Clergy Against Senior Exploitation (CASE) Partnership, a program operated by the Denver District Attorney’s office, works with faith-based partners to develop and present training programs on elder financial exploitation (including identity theft) for clergy and older congregational members.  A community advocate works with the program, to help individuals from the faith communities navigate the legal and social services system, and provides written information, including monthly fraud alerts, for use in newsletters and community bulletins. The project has a grant to assist other communities replicate the program. To learn more, see CASE http://case.denverda.org/case/default.htm
  • Ohio passed legislation that enhances the penalty for those who commit identity fraud against the elderly or disabled and authorizes the Attorney General's office to issue the Identity Theft Verification Passport program, which provides victims with a method of demonstrating to law enforcement and creditors that their identity has been stolen, rehabilitating their credit history and identifying any fraudulent criminal charges. Once a police report is taken and the victim’s identification is verified, victims file PASSPORT applications with the Attorney General’s office. The office enters information, include photographs, signatures and fingerprints on a secured website and issues victims PASSPORT cards. For more on the Passport verification program, see the Identity Theft Verification Passport Program Web site. http://www.ag.state.oh.us/victim/idtheft/index.asp

From My Blog:

  • Long Distance Undue Influence (June 20, 2006)
    Last week, San Diego prosecutor Paul Greenwood posted a message to NCEA’s list serve about an “articulate, coherent and charming” elderly woman who’d sent over $50,000 to telemarketers in Canada despite being warned repeatedly that they were crooks. She described feeling “hypnotized.” To see the full post, click on Long Distance Undue Influence
  • Saying Goodbye to an Elder Champion (July 24, 2006)
    When Bruce Coleman retires from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the end of the month, it will be a tremendous loss for American elders and their advocates. As coordinator of “Project Emptor,” a position he’s held since 2004, Bruce has helped countless victims and “would be” victims of telemarketing fraud. Project Emptor, as in caveat emptor, Latin for "buyer beware," intercepts packages and mail that contain “bait letters” from telemarketers and checks or money orders from victims. It’s not the first time Bruce has retired. He left the RCMP in 2000 after 27½ years and returned to the Commercial Crime unit after a short stint at Workers’ Compensation. To see the full post, click on Saying Goodbye to an Elder Champion
  • Elder ID Theft: Should We be Concerned? (September 20, 2006)
    Traditionally, those of us in the field of elder abuse prevention haven’t dealt with “consumer” crimes like telemarketing scams or identity theft. There was no evidence to suggest that elders were targeted, and some studies even suggested that elders were less likely than younger people to be victimized. Besides, our focus was on abuse by family members and acquaintances.  To see the full post, click on Elder ID Theft: Should We be Concerned?
  • Predators and Politics (July 09, 2007)
    A couple weeks ago, the New York Times ran a chilling account, "Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist," about how financial predators operate and how presumably legitimate businesses help them. To see the full post, click on Predators and Politics
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For more on promising practices and developments in the field, visit my blog, Prevent Elder Abuse.
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