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State officials urge Arkansans to watch for scams targeting elderly

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and state officials are warning of the dangers of scams targeting older Arkansans.

The Arkansas Securities Department is advising Arkansans to be on the lookout for potential scams, which could come via social media or emails, or even from family members and caregivers.

The Department’s interim commissioner Campbell McLaurin says financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of abuse, with the internet making it much easier for scammers to target vulnerable adults.

“I think it all starts with an evaluation of whether the person is physically, mentally or emotionally vulnerable to a bad actor in some way. And [being] emotionally vulnerable recently has become a big factor, I think. With the pandemic, our older population was more isolated than they’ve ever been before,” McLaurin said.

McLaurin says people should look for sudden changes in banking practices, or if an elderly family member appears to be controlled by a new acquaintance. He recommends appointing a trusted contact, such as a family member, attorney or accountant, to help monitor unusual activity on financial accounts.

McLaurin says, if someone is scammed, there are some options to try to recover the money.

“If our office is notified early in the process and we are able to locate an account where there are funds, we can file an action with the circuit court to freeze those funds and then take action that way,” McLaurin said. “It has happened, but we certainly would caution anyone against a strong likelihood of recovery.”

The FBI says Arkansans over 60 lost about $3.5 million to fraud and scams in 2020. McLaurin says those who suspect they or a loved one has been scammed can call the Arkansas Securities Department hotline or go to its website.

One in ten Americans over age 60 have experienced some type of physical or financial abuse according to the National Council on Aging.

Daniel Breen is a third-year undergraduate journalism student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.