May is Older Americans Month: Part I

Learn the warning signs of asset recovery scams.

As of July 2015, there are approximately 47.8 million people 65 and older in the United States according to the U.S. Census. May has been designated as Older Americans Month, a time to celebrate those 65 and older. Several communities have programs throughout the month which often focus on celebrating and protecting the older people in our communities. 

Over 35 million people age 65 and older reported living in homes with computers in 2015, and of those, 30.9 million accessed the internet through a high-speed internet connection. Scam artists can get personal financial information from computers, affirming the importance of older Americans protecting themselves from the variety of scams targeted toward older consumers. A popular scam is posing as asset recovery companies. These scammers contact older Americans who are previous victims and promise to ‘recover’ their stolen assets for a fee.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers the following warning signs to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:

  • Upfront fees to recover money — do not pay upfront for a service that has not been performed. Research the company to ensure they are a legitimate company.
  • Claims of insider information and connections –— companies who claim they have special access to federal agencies on your behalf are often fraudulent. Submitting complaints to federal agencies, such as the CFPB or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or state attorneys general offices are free to the public.
  • Requests for secrecy — do not allow anyone to try to persuade you to ‘act now’ without having a chance to research the company or talk to family or friends before using their services. 

If you have been a victim of fraud and an asset recovery company contacts you to recover your assets for a small fee, be very cautious.  Never give any financial information upfront! You can request their phone number and website, research the company, talk to family and friends and then decide on how to proceed.  If you discover the company is indeed a scam, be sure to report it to your local law enforcement, FTC, and CFPB.

Be sure to check out Michigan State University Extension and MIMoneyHealth.org for more great tips.  Don’t forget to take our Financial Health Survey and get your score to learn about more ways to improve your financial health.

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