Scammers target seniors more than others often times because of their polite and trusting nature. Coupled with the fact that seniors can have a significant amount of savings and are less aware of the risks associated with rapidly evolving technologies. Having knowledge of scammers and how they operate, can give you a strong edge against fraudsters who aim to steal, defraud, attempt to take over your properties or drain your bank account.
Most Common Types of Scams
Medicare and health insurance scams
Scammers may send you or your loved ones a phishing email or call them posing as Medicare representatives or their insurance agents to get their personal details and use such to make bogus Medicare or other health insurance billing on their behalf.
Fake drugs scams
Seniors can fall for scams when searching for cheaper drugs online. In addition, seniors are more vulnerable to purchasing fake “miracle” products that promise to fix cognitive deficiencies and reverse aging.
The organizers or agents of these fraudulent schemes usually promise huge returns on investment within a short period of time and they often paint a picture of extraordinary lifestyle improvements that could result from such ventures.
The ubiquity of the internet makes scamming easier to perpetuate. It can range from deceptive software that can steal your financial details, to pop-ups that claim ransom or that software is needed to unlock the computer. Identity theft and card fraud are also quite common on the internet. such ventures.
Telemarketing and phone scams
Many scams targeting seniors are carried out over the phone. Callers can take advantage of the fact that seniors make more phone-based transactions compared to the general population. They can sell bogus products and services to seniors posing as telemarketers. This particular scam is more common with seniors who may live alone.
Some scammers pretend to be a relative, such as a grandchild, and can extort money from seniors while claiming to be in distress.
Many seniors are living alone due to the death of their partner or divorce, so this can make them particularly vulnerable to various romance scams on the internet. The victims often wire large sums of money over a long time period of time to fictitious significant others who claim to be in dire need.
Some scammers attend funerals and target the deceased grieving partner. They often claim that they are being owed certain sums by the deceased which they force the widow to pay through blackmail or intimidation.
In this scam, seniors are asked to pay a certain amount of money to unlock their winnings, usually in a game they didn’t participate in the first place.
Theft and unpaid debt
Relatives and those with a strong relationship with seniors, such as caregivers, can end up scamming them by borrowing money they never intend to pay back, and stealing when an opportunity presents itself. This is why working with a trustworthy homecare agency is essential to seniors’ safety.
Top 5 indicators of a Scam
- Request for personal details: Many scams involve getting a senior’s personal and financial details through phone calls or emails. Do not reveal this information unless you know it is from a trusted source.
- Payment urgency: Scammers usually place immense pressure on their target. If a marketer or professional is placing you under immense time pressure to pay up or lose an opportunity, chances are that the transaction is a potential scam.
- Uncontested winnings: This is quite easy to detect. If you never entered a lottery, then any reported winning messages or calls are fake.
- Behavioral changes on making new friends: If your loved one suddenly started behaving strangely and keeping secrets after befriending a stranger, chances are that they are being scammed.
- Unpaid bills: If the bills of a senior with an adequate source of income are piling up; they may be a victim of financial fraud which is diverting their payments elsewhere.
How Seniors Can Avoid Being Scammed
Now that you understand the top scams targeted at seniors and the red flags, how can you or your loved ones be protected?
- Never give out your personal details: Ignore and block any call or email requesting for personal or financial details such as credit card numbers or social security number. Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry 1 (888) 382-1222 to avoid these types of calls.
- Seek second opinions: Whenever you want to make an unusual financial transaction, you should get a second opinion from your caregiver or relative.
- Get involved in your community: Being isolated is a risk factor for being scammed. Whenever possible, you should participate in communal activities and gatherings to be duly informed of fraud schemes on time.
- Never buy from unknown marketers: Refuse to buy from unknown people who call your phone to avoid buying worthless products or services. Do not be pressured into making on-the-spot decisions, ask for contact information instead.
- Regularly monitor senior’s expense: If you know or are close to a senior, checking their accounts on regular basis can help you spot a scam in progress and stop it.
- Do not claim uncontested winnings: If you didn’t participate in a contest, you shouldn’t trust any call or message stating otherwise. Even if you did play the game, messages requesting a “clearance fee” for your winnings are scams.
- Financial education: Getting more financial education will put you in a position where you can screen out scam offers.
The FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Justice Department, and many local law enforcement groups have all made statements about seniors being targeted for scams. Realizing that many seniors have money but little knowledge of technology or current scams, criminals see opportunity. You can help protect seniors by sharing this information with them about common senior-targeting scams.