As the number of Americans over the age of 65 grows, so too does the number of scammers whose mission is to gain access to their hard-earned retirement money.
Such was the case of one La Jolla man who says a cosmetics retailer sold nearly $38,000 of lotions and face creams to his elderly wife who suffers from memory loss.
Dave G., who wished to remain anonymous, contacted NBC 7 Responds in December of last year, one month after his wife went window shopping in La Jolla Village while her husband ran a quick errand. It was then, according to Dave, that his wife came upon a store that specializes in anti-aging face lotions and other products. His wife says she received a sample treatment without any mention of cost. She said the next thing she knew she was handed a receipt along with a number of products. The receipt showed purchases of over $37,700 dollars.
Dave told NBC 7 Responds that he approached the saleswoman once he saw his wife with the bag and the receipt. He told her that everything must be returned and his wife was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The salesperson, however, refused.
Dave called the credit card company and managed to stop $11,000 of the payment from going through but that still left more than $26,000 worth of purchases.
Dave called the police but they told him it was a civil matter. That’s when he decided to call NBC 7 Responds for help.
We contacted the DA’s Office and passed along the couple’s complaint.
A few months later, we received word that the company agreed to refund more than $21,000 to the couple. NBC 7 Responds chose not to name the couple or the company for the story.
While the District Attorney’s Office could not comment on the specific case, Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirello who heads the elder abuse division commented on the larger issue of elder scams.
“Our society will be judged by how we treat our youngest and our oldest because they are the most vulnerable,” said Pirello.
“The district attorney believes and prioritizes that we focus on crimes impacting our elder population because of that inherent vulnerability that they have.”
Pirello says seniors are more vulnerable to falling victim to scams. Typically, said Pirello, seniors are more trusting of people and more often than not they are isolated from family, or in some cases, don’t have many family members left.
“There is a period of time where there's the onset of some sort of loss of executive function that just limits a person’s ability to filter and screen someone that's well intended versus someone who's preying on them,” said Pirello. “They may not have the wherewithal or as you said the judgment to be able to say no to a scammer.”
“The population of those 65 and older is going to almost double in the next 15 years,” said Pirello. “Don't think that the scammers who are sitting far afield aren't paying attention to those numbers because we know from research and media reports that scammers are making tens of billions of dollars from conning elderly people.”