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Commerce Commissioner Urges Seniors to Protect Their Money and Prevent Wire Transfer Fraud

Fri, Jan 3rd, 2014
Posted in All State of Minnesota

SAINT PAUL, MN – Older Americans are scammed out of an estimated $2.5 billion dollars a year and an increasingly prevalent tool used by fraudsters is wire transfer fraud. Seniors are frequently tricked into wiring money, believing they are paying for the release of a grandchild from jail or to secure the payment of jackpot winnings in foreign countries. The Commerce Department reminds Minnesotans to take advantage of the strengthened consumer protections intended to fight this type that were passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor in 2013.

“The new money transfer consumer protections will stop fraudsters who have too long targeted seniors through wire transfer fraud. Being defrauded out of tens of thousands of dollars late in life can be devastating – and it happens to thousands of seniors every year,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Seniors and their loved ones need to protect themselves from fraud and spot the signs of elder financial abuse through wire transfer fraud.”

Under the new law, when consumers send money transfers, they may request the money transmitter to notify them if a person attempts to collect their money transfer at a location other than the one they have designated. Consumers may also request that the money transmitter provide them with verification that their money transfer was collected at the location they designated and the name of the person collecting their money transfer. The new law prohibits money transmitters from allowing a person to collect a money transfer at a location other than the location a consumer has designated unless the money transmitter has obtained consumer’s authorization to do so. Also included in the new law are expanded tools for the Commerce Department to regulate the industry and increased penalties for bad actors.

If seniors choose to use a money transmitter to send money, they are reminded to utilize the destination provision to ensure their money is going to the right place. With this new law, the money transmitter must promptly notify the sender if a person has attempted to receive the transfer in a different location than specified by the sender.

Signs of elder financial abuse and exploitation

If you are concerned that a senior might be a victim of fraud and financial abuse, be on the lookout for unusual behaving including:

· Unusual banking transactions that are inconsistent with past behavior,

· Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money or closing accounts without regard to penalties, and

· Changes in spending habits, such as giving large, unexpected gifts, suddenly missing routine bills payments, or developing secrecy around money.

Other signs of financial fraud might be:

· Confusion over recent financial transactions that included property transfers, refinanced mortgages, or legal documents, such as wills, have unexplained changes,

· A lack of basic amenities or belongings have gone missing,

· A new friend has taken an unusual interest in a senior and has assumed power of attorney or gained access to financial accounts, and

· A caregiver is unable to adequately provide for the senior’s basic needs and is secretive about the senior’s finances.

Statistics show that up to 80 percent of elder financial abuse goes unreported. Victims often face barriers in reporting due to embarrassment, fear of their abuser, and fear of losing their freedom.

How can you protect yourself and your family members?

End the Call – There is no such thing as being rude when protecting yourself and your investments from scammers. Trust your instincts. If you do not remember buying a lottery ticket or entering a sweepstakes, the call is most likely a scam. If you receive a call from a family member in danger, hang up and call loved ones to verify.

Phone a Friend - When Commissioner Rothman’s grandmother is called by a solicitor over the phone, the first thing she does is call Commissioner Rothman. You should identify a trusted friend or family member you can call for questions and advice.

Report the Fraud – The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help. Report the fraud so others don’t fall victim to the same scam.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Help Line can be reached by phone at (651) 539-1600 or (800) 657-3602. Complaints can also be sent by email to consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

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