It’s a sad fact, but elderly adults are often the target of unscrupulous schemes and scams. They’re considered easy prey, as seniors tend to be more trusting, chatty and unaware of the latest tricks to get them to reveal personal information or financial details.
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Just because you know the Prince of Nigeria doesn’t need your help doesn’t mean some people aren’t still falling for that racket. There’s a reason why that particular email and its ilk are still being circulated – because a certain percentage of people actually take the bait and send money, often older folks.
Elder fraud is a serious business. Some call it “the crime of the 21st century,” because seniors are a segment of the population thought to have significant money sitting in their accounts. But it’s not just the wealthy who are targeted, as low-income seniors are also at risk of financial abuse.
Lots of these financial scams go unreported or are difficult to prosecute, so they’re considered a low-risk crime. However, they can be devastating to older adults and can leave them in a vulnerable position with little time to recoup any losses.
Here are some of the senior scams in circulation at the moment. If you get approached by something like this, hang up, delete or run!
1. Medicare or Health Insurance Scams
As all US citizens or permanent residents over 65 qualify for Medicare, it doesn’t take a lot of sleuthing for a scam artist to figure out what private health insurance company a senior has in order to trick them into revealing information. Perpetrators of this con pose as a friendly Medicare representative, and then get them to share personal details as they sign them up for some sort of bogus service or benefit. Do your own research about medical coverage you need rather than fall for solicitations that may or may not be authentic.
2. Counterfeit Drug Scams
The internet is full of false claims about medical treatments and prescription drugs for cheap that turn out to be fake. It’s easy to be tempted to try some of these things when you want to believe in their efficacy and affordability so much. Know that a lot of the reviews on these websites are fake and written in-house, not by satisfied customers. Some of these scams can be dangerous for the body as well as the pocketbook. Similarly, watch out for pricey anti-aging scams on the internet too. There are so many products making grandiose unsubstantiated claims that are all-too-easy to fall for. A good rule of thumb is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Save your money and your disappointment and avoid these snake oils.
3. Fraudulent Funeral Offers
There are two classic types of funeral and cemetery scams perpetrated on seniors. In one, the swindler scans obituaries or goes to a stranger’s funeral to take advantage of a widow or widower, claiming the deceased had a debt with them. In their moment of grief, some seniors just pay off the fake debt just to be done with it. In the other, an unscrupulous funeral home may jack up the prices or sneak unnecessary add-ons to the service, knowing the loved ones are in duress and not likely to notice or protest until the bill comes at a later date. This is a vulnerable time, so seniors shouldn’t agree to anything suspicious or questionable. Have a clear-headed friend or trusted family member help you through this process.
4. Telemarketing and Phone Scams
One of the most common senior scams is when telemarketers prey on older people, who make double the amount of purchases over the phone than the national average. Taking advantage of the loneliness factor many aging adults face, these phone call phonies engage in friendly banter, build rapport and trust, then pitch and close a sale for something nobody really needs or wants. These scams are difficult to trace or resolve, as there is no paper trail and no face-to-face interaction. Once a senior has fallen for one of these phone scams, their names are often place on a list of gullible people and shared among other schemers, so they become repeat victims.
Some other phone scams to be wary of include fake charity solicitations that often occur after a natural disaster. A fake accident ploy is another one where the perpetrator gets the victim to send money pretending a relative is in the hospital and needs their urgent help. Yet another heartbreaking ploy is the fake grandchild scam. Someone calls and says something like “Hi grandma, guess who this is?” Often the senior will say a name, and then the caller has a trusted identity to work their grift on. This fake grandchild will then ask for them to send cash to solve some financial problem. Don’t fall for this.
5. Email Phishing Scams
A senior gets an email message that appears to be from a trusted company, asking them to “verify” or “update” or their personal information. Often it’s a bank or credit card company or something about a refund from the IRS, with logos that look legitimate. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers or Social Security numbers, and if they get that info, they could gain access to your email, bank or other accounts. This is known as a phishing scam, and unsuspecting seniors fall for them all the time.