Elderly Americans Losing Billions To Scams

Elderly Americans Losing Billions To Scams

By Daniel Stefanksi |

A recent report shows that elderly Americans are collectively losing billions of dollars through nefarious means.

Earlier this year, AARP released a report, showing that Americans over the age of 60 years old lose $28.3 billion each year to ‘elder financial exploitation’ (EFE).

According to the non-profit, EFE is “the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets.”

“While strangers often rely on quick and irreversible transactions such as gift cards or wire transfers, perpetrators who know the victim are more likely to gain direct access to their victims’ bank accounts. But financial exploitation of any kind wreaks havoc on the lives of older adults and their families,” said Jilenne Gunther, National Director of AARP’s BankSafe Initiative and lead author of the report. “The keys to stopping this growing problem are consumer education, frontline employee training and strengthened technology to flag suspicious activity.”

AARP labeled its methodology for producing the total annual losses as “a first-of-its-kind,” due to the fact that the majority of these dollars go unreported. In fact, the report estimated that out of the $28.3 billion comprising the annual EFE deficit, $20.5 billion is unreported. Almost three-quarters of the $28.3 billion ($20.3 billion) stems from people the victim(s) know, while the remaining $8 billion is pilfered from strangers.

In its conclusion, AARP asserts that the reason for this vast divide between the fraud from strangers or family / friends is because “the nature of stranger-perpetrated fraud bears little resemblance to fraud initiated by people the victim knows. To start, while strangers may rely on quick and irreversible transactions such as gift cards or wire transfers, perpetrators familiar to the victim are more likely to make incremental inroads, gaining direct access to funds, for example, by attaining joint ownership or power of attorney status on their victims’ accounts.”

The report gave two possible solutions to help minimize future EFE. The first is to “provide funding to states to mandate and standardize data collection procedures of Adult Protective Services, which would enhance the picture of EFE.” The second is to “tailor evidence-based intervention strategies based on perpetrator type.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Increased Demand For Used Vehicles Increases Risk Of Fraud

Increased Demand For Used Vehicles Increases Risk Of Fraud

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Department of Transportation is hoping to protect consumers from having a bad time buying a used vehicles.

An increased demand for certified pre-owned or used vehicles has been seen in recent months in response to manufacturer supply chain interruptions and the increased cost of new vehicles coming off the assembly line. Add that to tightened underwriting rules for new vehicle loans, and the used car market has become the next best option for many Arizonans.

But purchasing a used vehicle comes with its own risks, whether buying from a private party or a car dealer. Which is why ADOT urges consumers to use care in such transactions, and to “walk away” if anything seems off with the car, the deal, or the seller.

Most used cars sold in Arizona come with only an implied warranty of merchantability lasting 15 days or 500 miles, whichever comes first. Therefore, ADOT recommends consumers not buy a used vehicle until a trusted mechanic has performed an inspection.

In addition to checking the vehicle’s general mechanical condition, the inspection should look at whether the odometer was tampered with and whether the vehicle has any water or collision damage which was not reported or properly repaired. Such damage could lead to future malfunctions of the electrical system or engine.

A prospective buyer should also obtain a Motor Vehicle Record to ensure the vehicle’s title is not encumbered by a lien. When a vehicle title has a lien, it cannot be transferred to a new owner without a release first being recorded.

“Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous sellers that go to an auto-title / loan business and receive a loan against their vehicle one day before they sell it. The auto-title / loan business applies a lien to that particular vehicle so it can’t be sold until the loan is paid,” according to ADOT.

A Motor Vehicle Record is available at MVD offices and authorized MVD third party office. Private companies such as CarFax and Experian Automotive also sell similar records, often referred to as a vehicle history report.

A third way to avoid fraud is to ask the vehicle seller to be present with the buyer to transfer the title at an MVD or Third Party office where the payment can be exchanged.

ADOT even has advice for anyone selling a used vehicle, as seller’s too can be targeted by scammers. First, make sure to obtain the buyer’s name and address. Second, make sure to remove the license plate and any handicap placard before the new owner drives away.

It is also critical to complete an ADOT-MVD “sold notice” and submit it to ADOT. This step ensures the seller is not held responsible for any tickets or liability connected with the vehicle after the sale is reported.

Additional consumer information concerning auto purchases is available from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office here.

Auditor General Finds Fraud In State’s Use Of COVID-19 Funds As Billions Still Available To Spend

Auditor General Finds Fraud In State’s Use Of COVID-19 Funds As Billions Still Available To Spend

By Terri Jo Neff |

Nearly $75 billion in federal COVID-19 funds was allocated to the State of Arizona, its local governments, businesses, and individuals between March 2020 and October 2021. Of that, more than $4.4 billion went to improper unemployment insurance claims because anti-fraud measures were not utilized by a state agency, according to a special report issued by the Arizona Auditor General. 

The questionable payments by the Arizona Department of Economic Security were from federal funds provided through the CARES Act, one of six Congressional acts and one Presidential memorandum that resulted in $74.9 billion being allocated within Arizona for response and recovery efforts stemming from the pandemic.

For purposes of the special report, the term allocated refers only to funds set aside, not necessarily spent.

The payment of fraudulent claims from the federal COVID-19 funding is not the only concern raised by the Auditor General. Another is the potential future adverse impact caused by the fact the Arizona Department of Administration was 29 days late in submitting a required audit report to a federal audit clearinghouse.

“The late report submission was primarily because State agencies experienced personnel and resource challenges throughout the year responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including administering the COVID-19 federal program monies and navigating their new requirements,” the report noted.

Federal agencies, the report notes, could “potentially” take action against the State and its three universities due to the late reporting.

The Auditor General’s report also highlights how the overall $74.9 million is split between $43.8 billion available directly to individuals, businesses, local governments, and other non-State programs while $31.1 billion in funds is allocated to the State of Arizona and its agencies.

Of the $43.8 billion in federal COVID-19 funding available directly to individuals, businesses, and local governments, a huge hunk ($18.3 billion) was allocated for individual and family assistance. Almost 95 percent of that has already been distributed in the form of various stimulus payments to individuals.

Another $18 billion is earmarked for business aid, most of which was paid out through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster loans.  The remaining $7.5 billion that was already allocated went to things like public health, transportation, and education (for a combined $4.3 billion) and $3.2 billion to local governments for varied purposes, including COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

The Auditor General’s report also took a close look at $6.3 billion spent or distributed from the State’s allocation between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020, the end of Fiscal Year 2020.

“We audited these monies as part of the annual compliance audit of federal monies the State spent and distributed, which we performed in accordance with State law and federal regulations, and in conjunction with our audit of the State’s financial statements,” according to the report, which noted the $6.3 billion was a small part of the overall $26.4 billion of various federal funds spent or distributed by the State of Arizona in FY2020.  

Of the $6.3 billion, more than 84 percent ($5.3 billion) was for individual and family assistance, while $352 million was allocated for public health programs. There was also $32 million earmarked for education and another $643 million categorized in the Auditor General’s report as for “miscellaneous” usage. 

The report also breaks down how the other $24.8 billion allocated to the State of Arizona and its agencies from July 2020 through October 2021 is designated, with the majority $13.1 billion (about 53 percent) again earmarked for individual and family assistance, including $7.1 billion for unemployment insurance benefits.

While most of the unemployment funding had to be spent by Sept. 6, some allocated funds can be spent as late of Sept. 30, 2025, according to the report.

The next largest chunk of COVID-19 funds to the Arizona state government is $5.7 billion for education, including $643.6 million of a direct allocation for the state’s three universities. Again, some of the fundings can be spent through September 2025.

Another $2.8 billion is categorized as “to be determined use” through Dec. 31, 2024. Examples of how those funds can be spent include COVID-19 mitigation efforts and infrastructure.

As to public health, there was $1.9 billion allocated to Arizona from July 2020 through October of this year. The main area of expenditure for these funds is for various COVID-19 “response.”  The majority of that allocation does not have to be spent until July 31, 2024.

That leaves roughly $1.3 billion in miscellaneous funding to be spent on things such as transportation, community services, and business assistance. Much of that allocation can be spent as late as Dec. 31, 2024, according to the report. 

Not included in the Auditor General’s report is an estimated $4.8 billion of federal COVID-19 related funding which the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee believes was allocated to tribal governments located wholly or partially within Arizona’s geographical boundaries