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Avoiding Home Improvement Scams

McNair Dallas Law

Elder Financial Abuse

Predators robbing seniors of their savings has been called “the fastest growing crime in the country.” Older adults are prime targets for financial exploitation, both by people they know and trust and by strangers. Financial exploitation is believed to cost older adults over $36 billion annually.

Most seniors never report being scammed or financially exploited, even when they know their money is being taken. They may be embarrassed, overwhelmed at the idea of involving the police, fear their memory or judgement will be questioned or are ashamed, especially when the abuser is a family member or caregiver.

The Laconia Daily Sun’s recent article entitled “Elder abuse and home improvement scams” says that isolation is a major risk factor for financial exploitation, and further isolation by the perpetrator is a strong indicator of undue influence.

Home improvement scams can jeopardize a senior’s independence because they can rob that individual of money, equity in their home, or even a safe place to live.

Older adults are most likely to have a “nest egg,” own a home with equity and have excellent credit.  They may need home modifications to accommodate changing needs. As a result, they make a perfect target for dishonest people posing as contractors.

Scam artists target homeowners in a variety of ways, causing them to lose thousands of dollars and even their homes. Some of the strategies scam artists often employ include:

  • Using high-pressure tactics to sell a range of services including roof, sidewalk and driveway repairs;
  • Charging inflated prices
  • Providing sub-standard work
  • Impersonating a building inspector or other official and demanding immediate repairs
  • Getting funds to pay for services by urging the homeowner to work with a certain lender or advising them to get a reverse mortgage; and
  • Identifying potential victims by scouting out neighborhoods (most notably after natural disasters), then targeting vulnerable older adult homeowners.

In Dallas County, we are fortunate to have the Elder Financial Safety Center – a collaborative program between The Senior Source, the Probate Court, and the District Attorney’s office.  This program has been effective in identifying & persecuting perpetrators, and in providing education and support to those impacted.

Financial scams and fraud can happen to anyone.  If you feel you or someone you love has been the victim of a financial crime, contact your local police department to report it.

Reference: Laconia Daily Sun (May 26, 2022) “Elder abuse and home improvement scams”

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