Who Can You Trust?

By  0 Comments

Reports have suggested older adults lose millions, if not billions, of dollars annually from savvy scammers. Older consumers are targeted more frequently than their younger counterparts primarily because scammers believe this demographic has significant assets and money sitting in bank accounts.

These financial scams against seniors have been labeled as the crime of the 21st century. Many often go unreported, too, which makes them a low-risk crime and therefore even more appealing to scammers.

Individuals who grew up in the first half of the 20th century were typically raised to be polite, courteous and trusting. Con artists, aware of this tendency, will capitalize on and exploit these traits. Plus, older adults are less likely to report being victims of fraud as they either don’t know to whom they should make the report or they are ashamed and embarrassed of what happened to them. Here are a few scams that have been making the rounds in the senior community.

Funeral and Cemetery
One approach scammers take is to review obituaries and then prey on the grieving widow/widower. Scammers may claim the deceased left an outstanding debt with them in an effort to extort funds from the surviving spouse or relatives to settle the phony debt. Further, some disreputable funeral homes, aware that many people are unfamiliar with the costs of funeral services, will add unnecessary charges to the bill.

If you’re in the 60+ crowd, especially if you are a woman and living alone, you may be a target for people who sell bogus products and services over the phone. Telemarketing scams usually involve offers of free gifts and prizes, low-cost vitamins, health care products and inexpensive vacations.

Medicare or Health Insurance
Age 65 is the qualifying age for Medicare. Scams in this category may involve a perpetrator posing as a Medicare representative calling to gather personal information from someone. Conversely, they may provide fraudulent services for elderly people in makeshift mobile clinics and then use the personal information provided by the individual to bill Medicare and then take off with the money.

Fake Charity
Scammers will set up fake charities to get your money. After natural disasters, for example, scammers may call older adults and ask for donations, appealing to their emotions.

When older adults are approaching retirement age, they are typically involved with planning for this period of life and managing their savings once they are no longer working. Several investment schemes are targeted at seniors who desire to safeguard their assets for their golden years.

Home Repair
If an older adult has unlocked the equity in his or her home, fraudulent home repair companies may come knocking to convince the potential client that certain home repairs should be made. You may make a down payment to these “companies” and never see that money or company ever again.

IRS Impostor
You may get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS saying you owe back taxes and immediate payment must be made or you could face potential jail time or hefty fines. The goal here is for the scammer to get your credit card information. If you get a call like this, hang up. The IRS will never demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe, nor will they contact you by email, text message or through social media to request information such as PINs, passwords, credit card, bank or other account information.

With more seniors becoming technologically savvy, it is important to understand the scammers lurk in so many corners online. For example, a scammer may send an email that looks official, such as from a bank, business or website a person frequently visits. The email appears legitimate and claims your password, banking number and other personal identifying information are required to fix the issue. Remember that no bank or business should ever ask for such information through an email. If you are concerned about your account, contact your bank or that particular business directly. And never, ever click on any link within the email.

It’s important to be aware of these and more scams if you want to protect yourself. Con artists typically play on your emotions, creating either a sense of urgency or fear in the matter. Likewise, some may appear friendly, approachable and on your side. If you think you have been a victim of scam, turn to someone you trust, such as a close friend or family member, who can help you resolve the matter.

If you feel even a tiny bit suspicious about a phone call, email, personal visit or other contact, do a Google search or turn to someone you trust who can help you. You can report or search for existing scams on AARP’s website. ■

Sources: consumerfinance.gov, ftc.gov, ncoa.org, seniorliving.org and fbi.org.