Seniors Beware! 10 Senior Scams to Watch Out For
Yesterday Seniors Helping Seniors did a presentation for the Laguna Beach Susie Q Senior Center. A copy of the presentation can be found here and the presentation is summarized below:
Seniors are scammed out of approximately $2.6 billion per year according to a MetLife Mature Market Institute study. Criminals target seniors because they often are easy prey. They are likely to have a “nest egg” socked away, they are a generation raised to be polite and respectful so may be more inclined to listen to a telemarketers spiel and they are susceptible to products related to health, cognitive functioning, and extending retirement funds. Seniors are less likely to report acts of fraud when they occur because they are embarrassed and fear that family or friends will think they are “slipping.” The reality is that scam artists that target seniors are hardened criminals and it is not the senior’s fault or a lack of judgment and blaming the senior just makes them less likely to report future crimes. The key to preventing crimes against seniors is education and awareness about the techniques criminals use to target this vulnerable population.
The top ten scams targeting seniors reported by the National Council on Aging:
- Medicare/health insurance fraud
- Counterfeit prescription drugs
- Funeral & cemetery scams
- Fraudulent anti-aging products
- Internet fraud
- Investment schemes
- Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
- Sweepstakes & lottery scams
- The grandparent scam
Learn more about each of these scams by Clicking Here.
It is not only wealthy seniors who are targeted. Every day the news has a story about a senior who has fallen victim to an unscrupulous person. Many of them never recover from the crime. Seniors should consider the following to protect themselves against fraud:
- Consider turning off your landline and using a mobile phone exclusively – if using a landline consider putting it on voicemail so that you can screen your calls,
- Shred any documents that contain personally identifiable information (social security number, full name, date of birth, account numbers including partial account numbers, etc.),
- Before making any investment or purchasing products that sound too good to be true, discuss with a trusted advisor (CPA, physician, lawyer), family member or friend,
- Be wary of opportunities that involve bringing in others to prosper,
- Check out charities at charitynavigator.org before making a donation,
- Look for the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site) if purchasing medication over the Internet,
- Never provide valuable data, social security number, Medicare number, date of birth, etc. to anyone who calls you over the phone no matter how much they pressure or try to intimidate you. Ask for their phone number then call the office of the organization they say they represent.
The grandparent scam is one that is especially cruel. The scammer calls a senior and pretends to be a family member who is in distress. The conversation often starts with “Grandma, do you know who this is?” The loving grandparent takes a guess and the scammer pretends to be that person and proceeds to detail the trouble they are in (car accident, arrest, overdue rent, etc.). They throw in not to tell anyone and ask for funds to be wired via Western Union or Money Gram. Because the senior has been asked to keep the request in confidence the crime often goes unreported until it is too late to recover the money sent.
So stop and think before letting someone talk you into a product or service that may not be as good as it sounds. Remember:
- You are not the winner of a contest, especially one you did not enter
- If you really win a contest the taxes will be paid out of the winnings – you don’t need to send money to get what you supposedly won
- Your loved one is not stranded and in need of money to get home
- Your grandchild has not been arrested
- The soldier does not need your assistance to get home
- Wiring money to and from is not a legitimate “work from home” job
- You are not the relative of royalty in a country you cannot find on a map, and no you are not entitled to any inheritance from that country
- Charities do not actually need your social security number to accept your donation – they do not have to report that to anyone for tax purposes
- If a business is legitimate they will send written documentation
- Wiring money to Nigeria will not help bring a dog home from Afghanistan!