Douglas senior loses $34,000 to scammers |

Douglas senior loses $34,000 to scammers

by Sgt. Bernadette Smith Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Last month, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office visited a senior citizen for a Caring Neighbors referral. Caring Neighbors is a new program administered by DCSO, where qualified and uniformed volunteers call and visit the seniors in our community. The volunteers can offer friendship, and assistance with obtaining services through the county. The senior can be educated on home security and scam prevention.

After a referral to the program, a sworn deputy along with a DCSO uniformed volunteer visits the senior and obtains needed information such as consent, next of kin and medication information. The information is beneficial in case of a future emergency involving the senior citizen.

During a recent Caring Neighbors visit with a senior, the senior inquired if they were going to be arrested by DCSO.  The senior was reassured law enforcement was not there to make an arrest. The senior retrieved a large manila envelope that contained MoneyGram, Western Union and overnight mail receipts.  The senior said “I thought you were here to arrest me for this.”  It was determined that the senior was sending money through wire transfers and delivery services for the past 20 months.  When asked why was the senior doing this. The reply was “It was to pay the taxes on the lottery winnings”. The senior had been duped by a common scam.

The amount scammed from the senior was over $34,000. A criminal report was documented and forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution, however successful prosecution of the foreign suspects and recovery of the monies is unlikely.

After a review of the financial status of the senior, it was determined the senior was near foreclosure, property taxes were unpaid, the phone and cable were turned off for non-payment, and auto, home and health insurance policies had lapsed. There was no family or friends available to assist the senior. The outlook was bleak.

Social Services and Elder Protective Services, along with DCSO Sheriff’s Office Caring Neighbors are working cooperatively to assist the senior citizen to recovery financially. Phone calls and letters are being made on their behalf.

According to the National Adult Protective Association, 1 in 9 seniors are being abused, neglected or exploited. Elder abuse is vastly underreported. There are 40 cases of abuse, while only 1 is being reported to authorities. Seniors can feel shame, guilt or embarrassment and do not report the crime.  Cognitive impairment and the need with help with daily activities makes the senior more vulnerable to predators, and that includes aggressive marketing tactics, that although are legal, they may take advantage of the senior.

Common scams by strangers on the computer, phone or at the front door.    

  1. Lottery or sweepstakes scams.
  2. Home repair or traveling handy persons.
  3. Grandparent scam (Grandpa, I am in jail and need help)
  4. Charity scams
  5. Utility company scams (You need to pay the bill to avoid disconnection)
  6. Warrant/subpoena scams (There’s a warrant for your arrest
  7. IRS scams (This is the IRS, you have taxes due now.)
  8. Social Security (This is Social Security Administration, your SS number needs to be verified.)
  9. Internet Phishing (Don’t open that strange email!)


Aggressive sales and marketing on vulnerable seniors.


  1. Predatory lending – some seniors feel pressured to sign for unneeded reverse mortgage.
  2. Annuity sales – purchasing an expensive annuity that matures when the senior is 90 or older.
  3. Pyramid schemes
  4. Medicare scams – Professionals bill for services not provided to Medicare.


Methods used by family, friends or trusted persons close to the senior


  1. Obtaining a Power of Attorney to manage the finances of a senior. It could be used as a license to steal the assets of the senior.
  2. Taking advantage of joint accounts
  3. Using the ATM card and checking account.
  4. Threatening to abandon, not help or hurt the senior.
  5. In home providers of services charging for services not provided, such as inflated time cards, or spending time on phone or computer when care should be provided.


Signs that a senior may be financially exploited


  1. Sudden changes in the bank account or banking practices.
  2. Names added to a signature card.
  3. Sudden or unauthorized withdrawals from an ATM when formally the senior came into the branch to conduct business.
  4. Abrupt changes in will or living trust.
  5. Sudden appearance of family that previously were uninvolved.
  6. Services on bank account or a bill presented for services not needed.
  7. Disappearance of jewelry, furniture or valuables.
  8. Substandard care for the senior when assets were previously known to be available.
  9. Change in banking habits, now making regular larger withdrawals.
  10. Consistent customer to money wire services.
  11. Sending overnight mail services via UPS, US mail or FedEx.
  12. Lapses in home, health or auto policies.
  13. Non-payment of household bills


Exploitation is prevalent. To stop elder exploitation, a community must be involved. Douglas County has a populations of around 47,000 including around 19,000 residents over the age of 60. Around 7,000 of these residents are over the age of 60 and lives alone.  The most vulnerable population are the children and the seniors.  Douglas County works to protect both.


Financial institutions, businesses, medical care providers, friends, family, neighbors, or anyone who comes in contact with the senior can be alert to certain signs of abuse. It a civic responsibility to report suspected abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.


What should you do if you suspect elder abuse, neglect or exploitation?


  1. Call the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at (775) 782-5126,
  2. Call Elder Protective Services at (888) 729-0571.


You may call anonymously.


If you know of a senior that could benefit from assistance from the Sheriff’s Office Caring Neighbor program, please call (775) 782-9825.


If you would like to volunteer for our Caring Neighbors program, call Sgt. Bernadette Smith (775) 782-5126