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Friday, July 6, 2012
By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
A recently defrauded Oklahoma senior citizen admitted, “I felt like I had ‘stupid’ written across my forehead." This common reaction of older victims is one of the reasons that many cases of senior fraud go unreported and unpunished. Many victims feel embarrassed or fear that their loved ones will doubt their ability to independently care for themselves. But seniors who fall prey to scams are not stupid. Con artists succeed in their schemes because of their highly convincing manipulation, not because their victims’ lack of intelligence. In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission reports this common profile of an investment fraud victim:
These are hardly shameful qualities. The only shame is in letting embarrasment stand in the way of bringing a criminal to justice.
It takes courage to admit that you have been defrauded, but reporting the crime is your most powerful tool for fighting back. In fact, reporting fraud not only helps punish criminals, it actually helps prevent crime. If all senior fraud were reported and prosecuted, we would have fewer con artists viewing senior citizens as easy targets. We would also have fewer victims who are unaware that they have been defrauded. Many fraud victims have no idea they have been scammed until they try to access the nonexistent benefits of their investment. By that time their money, and the crook, are often long gone. But when a fraud report is made, authorities have the power to raise awareness of the issue; both preventing new victims, and alerting existing victims who may be unaware. Consequently, more victims can come forward with more evidence for prosecuting criminals. Greater prosecution sends the message to criminals that it is not safe to defraud Oklahomans.
Falling for a scam can leave victims feeling vulnerable and helpless. But you have the power to retaliate against senior fraud simply by reporting it. The Oklahoma Insurance Department is committed to going after those who would take advantage of our senior citizens. If you believe you have become a victim of Medicare, investment, or prepaid funeral fraud, please call the OID anti-fraud hotline at 1-800-522-0072.
To learn more about protecting yourself, attend one of our Senior Fraud Conferences being held across the state. You can sign up at www.ok.gov/oid/Public_Information/Events, or by calling 1-800-763-2828.