Protecting Yourself From Scams: Knowledge is Power
Today, more so than ever before, seniors are becoming unsuspecting victims of numerous scams because scammers are becoming smarter and smarter with each fraudulent act. While there is beauty and great progress in our technologically advanced world, the downfall is that scam artists now have countless resources at their fingertips (literally) which give them the power to be able to prey on their targets easier than ever before. However, because most scams go unreported by victims, prosecution can be difficult. It is important to know that scammers don’t discriminate- from wealthy seniors to those who are low-income and all of those in between, everyone is subject to being targeted. Sadly, it’s not just a stranger on the other end of the phone, letter or email that targets these seniors. Family members can prey upon their elderly family members just as easy as strangers can and, according to an article on seniorliving.org, “more than 90 percent of all reported elder abuse is actually perpetrated by a senior’s very own family members.” This being said, ABC Home Healthcare Professionals wants to empower you to defend yourself against these scammers by knowing what kind of scams exist currently and how to prevent becoming a victim.
Most Reported Scams
Specifically, for seniors, some of the most prevalent and well-known scams according to the National Council on Aging include Medicare, counterfeit prescription drugs, funerals, anti-aging products, telephones, internet, investments, mortgages, sweepstakes/lotteries, and grandparent scams.
Perhaps the “hottest scam” taking place has to do with Medicare as scam artists are posing as Medicare representatives and asking for seniors to provide them with all kinds of personal information such as their Medicare identification number, date of birth, address etc. These scammers use this information to bill Medicare for fraudulent services or equipment and they take the money themselves.
Prescription Drug Scams
As prescription drug prices skyrocket, many seniors take to the internet to search for discount prices on the medications they need. Unfortunately, this provides a prime opportunity for fraudsters to create fake websites to obtain payment information whereby they charge credit cards for the medications and send counterfeit drugs that do not relieve any symptoms.
Scam to Settle Debt of Deceased Loved One
Scammers are smart when it comes to knowing how to play your emotional heart strings. Having no conscience, they search obituaries and use times of desperation to obtain money from family members of the deceased for funeral services or the scammer says the deceased member of the family owed money on a debt and payment needs to be remitted immediately. These scammers act nice and caring to establish a rapport with the victims and then, once they’ve seemingly earned the trust of the family member, they make their request and demands and are typically met with little to no objection.
Anti-Aging Product Scams
In today’s world, it is obvious that maintaining a younger physical appearance has become a top priority for many of those in the aging population- especially women. Using this as yet another prime scamming opportunity, fraudsters advertise “miracle” products online and via mail with the hopes of attracting buyers who pay for the products but never experience any of the “life-changing” results. Returning the products proves to be a hassle and very rarely are you even able to get in touch with a customer service representative. It is usually an automated system that is cryptic and causes frustration so consumers opt to just hang up and throw away the faulty product instead. What’s worse is that sometimes consumers receive products that contain harmful chemicals and can cause skin issues for the unsuspecting consumer.
Charities and Online Services Scams
Again, with technology like cell phones, emails and the internet, it is easier than ever before for scammers to reach their targets. Often times, scammers will call seniors after a natural disaster or similar incident and pose as a charity and ask for donations. Another popular tactic, knowing the elderly are less savvy with the internet, scammers pose as anti-virus companies and ask for personal information and payment information and they wind up being able to hack the device even though the consumer thinks that they have just prevented this kind of threat.
Mortgage and Financial Planning Scams
Scammers also love honing in on mortgages and investments because these are some of the easiest ways to talk seniors into giving money or providing personal information. Mortgage loans and investment portfolios can be very complex subjects for seniors and scammers know this so they make the conversation even more circular and complicated and wind up being able to blindly lead the senior to do exactly what they want them to do.
You’re a Winner Scam
“Win $5,000 a week for life!” Who hasn’t seen these kinds of advertisements for sweepstakes on TV, in magazines or on a postcard you get in the mail?! These ads are everywhere so when a unknown caller calls and claims to be from one of the companies that offer this kind of sweepstakes, it seems to be legitimate and many seniors provide the caller with their information hoping to be that “lucky winner.” It is important to remember that you should never give anyone any personal information or financial information if you do not know them and if they are not a trusted source. Legitimate companies will not ask for sensitive information over the phone.
Family Member Needs Help Scam
Lastly, and again playing with their heart strings, scammers have been experiencing success with pretending to be a beloved grandchild or great niece or great nephew. The scammer pretends to be in trouble and requests that they wire a large sum of money to “bail them out” of the trouble they’re in. Seniors find themselves feeling scared, anxious, and hopeless so they wind up doing exactly as asked and wiring the money.
While the aforementioned scams may be most popular, it is important to note that there are many others that surface each and every day. For instance, if you have credit cards, it is always critical to ensure you are reviewing your statements closely every month to ensure there are no unknown charges that could potentially be fraudulent. If you come across a suspicious charge on your statement or receive an alert and you are unfamiliar with the amount or the vendor, it is imperative that you call your credit card’s fraud department immediately to either place a hold on your card to prevent future activity or cancel your card and/or request a new card be issued to you.
Don’t be a statistic. Don’t be a victim. Arm yourself with the knowledge and resources to combat fraud. There are many resources available to you on the internet including those mentioned on this website: