When scammers know how to confuse and gain the trust of the elderly, they have virtual free reign of bank accounts, personal information, and even assets.
If you’re concerned about the well-being of a senior in your life, or if you’re a senior who wants to protect yourself, learn about common risks and scams. Then, if someone approaches you or your loved one with a potential investment or opportunity, it will be easier to determine the legitimacy of the offer.
Here are some of the most common schemes – and why they’re especially dangerous for seniors:
1. Prescription Drug Scams
Seniors often take a myriad of prescription medication, which can be quite expensive. Sure, Medicare helps with the costs, but some seniors are still left paying hundreds of dollars per month for prescriptions. It’s no wonder that seniors are likely to fall for online schemes that promise deeply discounted prices on medication. But once shoppers hand over a credit card number, their money is taken.
2. Investment Scams
Plenty of seniors are eager to multiply their nest eggs to provide for a more comfortable retirement. And if they’ve already saved a tidy sum, they may have a little with which to take some risk. That makes seniors easy prey for fake “investment opportunities” that don’t really offer a return.
3. Internet and Email Scams
The Internet can be a confusing place for seniors who haven’t had much experience with technology. A Pew Research Internet use study found that many adults over the age of 74 use the Internet solely for health information, news, and buying products, and are not as savvy when it comes to email, social networking, and online safety.
4. Charity Scams
Scammers posing as charity workers contact seniors and offer up a sad story which, of course, concludes with a plea for funding. Seniors are taken in by the tale, and send along money to help. Charity scams often carry a note of urgency – a telemarketer might note that money has to be given now, or ask that a credit card number be given in lieu of a mailed check. This gives a senior vno time to investigate the supposed charity and contemplate whether they should give. Such a scam takes advantage of a senior’s compassion, which can make it especially hurtful.
5. Check Scams
Check scams involve a con artist offering to buy an item from a seller using a cashier’s check, which is made out for an amount that is greater than necessary. The scammer then asks that the check be cashed, and the excess funds returned. Of course, the check is fraudulent, but if the money is returned before the seller realizes this, they have lost the funds – as well as the item they put up for sale. Since cashier’s checks are usually as good as gold, some seniors don’t ask questions and are taken in by the opportunity to sell quickly.
6. Help Scams
This is a scam that often confuses the elderly. A scam artist calls up the unsuspecting target, and with some basic information convinces the senior that he or she is a grandchild in a dire situation. Then, the scammer asks for financial help because of an accident or other emergency. The scammer then has money wired directly into his or her hands.
Caregivers can take some steps and identify red flags to help protect their elderly parents from scam artists and fraud against elders, according to the Better Business Bureau. These include:
Get involved with seniors' financial decisions as much as possible
Never allow your elderly parent to give out (or at least warn them against it) personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers over the phone.
If a salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company--including the company's name, address and telephone, do business with someone else.
If someone calls from a "government agency" requesting money, ask for a certified letter on an official letterhead.
Visit the homes of elderly relatives regularly. Ask about phone call they've received (con artists tend to develop relationships with their lonely victims and prey on their need for conversation.). And watch for a full mailbox. Large numbers of mailings from promotion companies could indicate that the elderly person is being targeted
Tell your parent never to hire someone who shows up at their door. If they are told their plumbing needs to be fixed, or the roof needs repaired, the scammer may take money, but never do the work.
Put the senior's phone number on the National Do Not Call registry by calling 1(888)382-1222 or visiting www.donotcall.gov.
This will help to limit phone calls from telemarketers.)
Fraud against older Americans is a serious problem affecting thousands every year. These tips can help prevent your aging parent from falling victim to scams.