Dilip Barot, founder of Creative Choice Homes in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, shares cyber scams and lawsuits impacting seniors looking for low income housing in Florida.
According to a news report by NBC Miami last month, hundreds of senior citizens lined up in hopes of scoring access to low incoming housing through the Catholic Archdiocese. The property, available for senior citizens 62 years or older, had only a handful of units available that will be issued via a lottery. This was especially disappointing to those that camped out overnight in their cars and waited patiently in line for an entire day. See link for more details. http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Residents-Vying-for-Affordable-Housing-in-Miami-330794332.html Why such an appeal for affordable housing? Well in Florida there are a couple of factors. First, a great deal of seniors live in the area who are on a fixed income. Secondly, the average apartment cost in the Miami area is $1,890 per month. Just 5 years ago, rent was barely $1,200. This is a 45% increase. The rapid increase in prices, coupled with the rise in interested seniors, is making the senior scene for housing extremely competitive. Unfortunately this has opened the door for scammers to try and take advantage of the market condition. Seniors in the area need to be aware of a few scams and class action lawsuits that could impact their home search.
Consumer scams are not new news. However according to Scambusters.org, senior scam crime is on the rise, netting $2.6 billion a year and hitting one in five people in this age group. The consumer advocacy group states that seniors are an attractive target for scam artists because they generally have more disposable income — cash nest eggs they don’t need for any specific purpose — and because they’re usually more trusting. And with life expectancy increasing, there is a larger population of vulnerable elders that often live alone, suffer from memory loss or simply get confused or frightened when interacting with smooth talking scammers.
Our Creative Choice Group has many years of experience in promoting affordable housing for low income residents, seniors and non-seniors. As part of the evolution in real estate, consumers and business owners are shifting a great deal of the search, qualification and registration processes to online. The digital age cuts costs, allows business owners to reach more people and offers a more convenient approach to home selection for renters. However, for seniors, going online can be scary and intimidating. Here are 3 scams to watch for:
- Identify Theft- Many seniors have little experience online but are good at following directions. When they enter a site that asks them to complete a form or add personal information, they are anxious to complete this accurately and thoroughly, which can be a big mistake. Giving personal bank numbers, social security numbers and personal health information about oneself is dangerous. It is important that family members, friends and community leaders like our Creative Choice Group team, educate seniors to help them enter information in a responsible manner. There are countless examples of class action lawsuits tied to identify theft.
- Bogus charges- Scammers will try to get unsuspecting seniors to pay for bonus items. Things like an upfront application fee or online deposits sound legitimate but are often an easy way for someone to be extorted out of funds. Seniors in particular should never pay over the phone or make out personal checks/pay in cash. Credit cards are the best option to as most financial banking institutions will have some level of fraud protection which may allow you to recover the funds.
- Scareware — Those pop-ups on your computer screen that tell you your computer is infected with a virus, then invite you to download a program to put it right (which you either pay for or which really is a virus). This is an easy scam to fall for if you are not computer savvy.
Clearly there is a need for more housing for seniors. For commercial real estate leaders like myself, I know the value of creating a safe and friendly environment for those in their golden years. To enable the growth in this space, it is important to educate and help seniors avoid online scams and gimmicks. Cyber protection is important!