Article by: Scott Mitchem
The National Council for Aging has named the top 10 financial scams targeting seniors:
- Health Insurance and Medicare Scams
The crooks pose as Government Medicare Agents trying to make a case against a doctor. They convince a senior to give them their Medicare information which they use to Bill Medicare for services never performed.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
These are offered on the internet and through spam e-mail targeting Seniors trying to save some money on their medication. The victim is out the money and might even die taking the incorrect medicine.
- Funeral and Cemetery Frauds
Scammers prey on people at their weakest moment. Some Funeral Directors will overcharge inventing fees for services never performed or overcharging when they see an elderly person. Others will call on the grieving spouse and claim that the deceased owed them money.
- In-effective and even Dangerous Anti-Ageing Products
Often internet based fraudsters will offer various cremes, lotions, and supplement claiming to provide a more youthful appearance or vigor. Sometimes they claim to offer hormone therapy or some other snake oil. At best the separate the victim from their money, at worse they could make them ill.
- Telemarketing Scams
These have been around forever but remain the most common. A recent twist is the caller will say “can you hear me” when the victim answers yes, they will record the victim’s voice. Later they send bills then they follow up if the bill is unpaid and when the victim says they never agreed to pay they will play the recording of the victim saying “Yes!”A really common telemarketing scam is people call claiming to represent the IRS and demand immediate payment “before the sheriff shows up and takes you to jail” They claim to be doing the victim a favor explaining that if the charges are an error you can apply and get your money back from the government later. The IRS will never call and demand money. If they do tell them to talk to your CPA.
- Internet Fraud
These can be almost anything. Emails that coerce seniors into divulging person and financial information. Telephone calls from helpful people claiming to work for a legitimate company who offer to “clean the viruses off your computer” but really plant spyware to take over computer anytime they wish so that they can impersonate the victim and steal from their friends or gather bank or other investment information and steal directly. Sometimes they just use the computer as a zombie to attack other legitimate websites and businesses. Seniors are more vulnerable to this because the perpetrators capitalize on their lack of understanding of technical computer issues. Even so, the young receptionist has opened large businesses network based on these calls.
- Investment Schemes
Retired people and people ready to retire are most at risk for investment fraud. Often, they have cashed in a pension account from their employer or downsized their home and have lots of investable assets. Scammers come in all shapes and sizes and the go fishing where they think they can find big fish. They send out invitations for lunches at nice restaurants, they hang out where seniors congregate and offer small favors, they go dialing for dollars. They have all sorts of scams to separate seniors from their retirement saving or home equity.
- Reverse Mortgage and other Homeowner Schemes
There are thousands of variations of ways that crooks use to cheat senior homeowners. These include fraudulent reverse mortgages where the crook persuades someone that they can continue to live in their home knowing that the amount of time before the victim will need long-term care is very short.
Fake repairs are often performed by shady contractors.
Offers to get property tax reduced for a fee where no service is actually rendered.
- Lottery, Contest, and Sweepstake Scams
The thieves insist that you cannot claim your prize unless you pay them a fee. They might even hand deliver a bogus check. This is turning into a common internet scam where the e-mail gets the victim to provide personal information like social security numbers and detailed tax information. The scammer uses this information to get credit and even file fraudulent tax returns and claim refunds.
- “Grandma I am in trouble and need money”
This starts with a telephone call, “Hi Grandma guess who this is.” After they get a name they tell the Senior that they need money wired immediately or a credit card number or something terrible will happen to them. They will often persuade the victim “please don’t tell Mom or Dad” and wait a few days and try it again. A variation on this crime is they will get information about a loved one who is traveling abroad and claim to have kidnaped them and demand ransom. These are the most insidious crimes because they prey on our love for our families.
All of these scamsters insist on urgency. The best way to avoid being a victim is to take it slow. Talk to your family, your caretaker, your CPA or your attorney. All of these schemes require the victim to act on impulse. Don’t be a victim. Check it out. Get a second opinion. Do not ever give anyone any personal information that contacts you by telephone or email or in person. If you did not initiate the contact, then be suspicious.
If someone claims to be from the bank, the IRS or even your Grandchild offer to call them back. Then call the bank or the IRS’ main number and check the number they gave you. Call your grandchild’s parents and get the number from them.
Be careful what you click on. Computer hackers routinely hack your friend or a business relationship’s email accounts and then try to impersonate them sending you dangerous links or files to break into your computer and gather data. If you were not expecting a message from them with a link or file call them or send them an e-mail asking what they send before you open the file or click on a link.
The world has become a very dangerous place with the high-speed internet and global telephone reach. The key to surviving is slow down. If it cannot wait until tomorrow there is a good chance it is a scam. There is no free lunch. Be suspicious of anyone offering anything for free.