According to the National Council on Aging, financial scams targeting older adults have become the “crime of the 21st century” because seniors are thought to have significant savings and assets. Financial scams are often considered “low-risk” crimes because they often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute. However, the effects can be devastating and leave victims in a very vulnerable position with little time to recoup their losses.
Scammers know that many people above the age of 60 own their homes, making it a valuable asset to target. One property tax scam in San Diego was conducted when scammers sent personalized letters to different properties supposedly on behalf of the County Assessor’s office. The official looking letter displayed public information including the property’s assessed value and offered the homeowner, in exchange for a fee, a reassessment of the property’s value to adjust the tax burden associated with it.
Similarly, the reverse mortgage scam has mushroomed in recent years. Scammers are well aware of the fact that legitimate reverse mortgages have increased in frequency more than 1,300% between 1999 and 2008, and they are taking advantage of the growing popularity. The scams involve unsecured reverse mortgages that can lead property owners to lose their homes when the perpetrators offer money or a free house somewhere else in exchange for the title to the property.
Reverse mortgages (a loan secured by the value of your home) can be complicated, and the pros and cons should be given careful consideration. Private lenders can provide reverse mortgages, and the National Council on Aging offers HUD-approved reverse mortgage counseling at 1-855-899-3778.