Protecting Our 'Wise Elders' From Fraud

Interview With Marie F. Smith, President of AARP

By Dick Carozza


As well-off Baby Boomers age, the pool of elders vulnerable to fraud is growing. Marie F. Smith, president of AARP, encourages fraud examiners to "keep up the good fight" in protecting the elders in their communities.   

"Injustice of any kind makes my blood boil," says Marie Smith during an interview with Fraud Magazine. "... As president of AARP, I become particularly incensed when I see crooks targeting older people," Smith says.

As baby boomers age, elder fraud undoubtedly will increase. Fraudsters are stealing elders' savings through telemarketing fraud, investment scams, door-to-door cons, identity theft, and charity fraud, among other schemes. And they appear to be getting better at it.

"Our vulnerable adults are at risk of being targeted for particularly pernicious crimes directed at their financial security," Smith says. "Studies point to psycho-social factors of trust, financial naivete, cognitive impairments, social isolation, dependency, fear, and embarrassment as cracks in victims' defenses against exploitation." But she says, "credit must be given to, or blame placed with, the perpetrators. They are good at what they do. They practice many time-tested psychological tricks that would wear away the defenses of even the most skeptical consumer."

Smith, a resident of Hawaii for almost 30 years before assuming the top AARP post, says older friends in her state are called kapuna, wise elders - the ones who have contributed to society, worked a lifetime, and raised families. One of her primary goals at the 35 million-member AARP is to protect the kapuna. "It's appalling that they should be victimized by professional tricksters."

Smith spoke to Fraud Magazine from her office in Washington, D.C.  




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