Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors
As a senior, the least you deserve is the respect of people not to take advantage of what could already be a shaky financial situation. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for scam artists and con-people to prey upon the elderly in a variety of devious ways.
10 Scams Targeting Seniors
Learning the ways seniors get cheated out of cash can help you or your loved ones avoid becoming the victim of these scams. Although the constant fear of being ripped off is no way to live, it’s good to be weary of the different techniques used.
1. Medicare and Health Insurance Scams
Considering that each and every American citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. over 65 qualifies for Medicare or Medicaid, the groundwork is already laid out for most scammers. Most of the time, perpetrators will pose as a Medicaid representative and ask you to confirm your personal information such as a social security number and anything else that may allow them to steal your identity or charge your accounts.
2. Counterfeit Prescription Medicines
With rising drug prices in the U.S., more seniors have been seeking ways to save money by turning to the Internet as a way to find the medicine they need. However, when the medicine is counterfeit, these scams can be extremely dangerous both financially and physically.
Besides the loss of money in fake products, seniors run the risk of suffering adverse reactions to unsafe substances. This can ultimately inflict additional harm when the targeted condition cannot be treated, leading to further dangers.
If you can avoid it, do not purchase medications online unless a website or source is recommended or verified by your doctor or physician.
3. Funeral Service Scams
In general, the FBI has warned about two main types of these scams:
Debt of the Deceased
In this approach, scammers study the obituaries of people who have recently passed, or may even attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of grieving family members. The criminal claims the deceased owed them an outstanding amount of money, attempting to extort family members into settling the “debt.” Truly, this is a hideous and unthinkable scam, though there have been similar cases reported in the past.
Funeral Home Funny Business
When families are unfamiliar with the procedures or costs of funeral services, some disreputable funeral homes have charged people unnecessary fees. In one common scam, funeral directors may insist that performing a direct cremation requires an expensive display or burial casket. In reality, this can be performed with a cardboard casket, which is considerably cheaper and just as effective. Always be sure to review the specifics of each service provided before making any payments.
4. Fake Anti-Aging Products
With so many images of young, beautiful people saturating the world of visual media, it’s no wonder that older people may be seeking out ways to mask their age. Some may feel as though they cannot participate in social circles without making an appeal to younger people, so anti-aging products are very attractive.
Frankly, it is not likely that you’ll be able to purchase the fountain of youth anytime soon, but that doesn’t stop people from pursuing fraudulent claims in hope of smoothing a wrinkle or two.
Not only can these claims be flat out lies, certain products may be extremely dangerous to use and consume. In 2006, fake Botox injections landed 4 people in the hospital. Being weary of products that are not backed by science or any real medical evidence should be your first indicator of fraud, along with such things as “money-back guarantees” or “secret, exclusive ingredients.”
5. Telemarketing Scams
Considering that senior citizens are twice as likely to make purchases over the phone than the national average of consumers, this puts them at a higher risk of becoming a victim of telemarketing scams.
Without a face-to-face interaction and no receipt of purchase, these scams are almost impossible to trace. What’s more is that once a deal has been made, most telemarket scammers will share the victim’s name and number with their fellow con-artists to steal as much as possible.
There are several versions including:
- The “Good Faith” Payment: In this scenario, the scammer tells the victim that they have found a large sum of money and is willing to split it after a payment is made from a personal bank account. It’s common for a second scammer to be involved as a fake lawyer, banker, or financial advisor. After the payment is made, communications cease and the victim is out of money.
- The Fake Accident Scheme: Here a con artist tells someone that a loved one or relative has been in an accident and is now in the hospital in need of money. Again, this is just another sick way to capitalize on the generosity of the elderly.
- Charity Ploys: This situation involves people posing as members of a relief organization or charity, many times after natural disasters. They indicate where donations can be made and merely pocket the money for themselves.
6. Internet Fraud
Since many seniors are unfamiliar with the deeper interworking of the Internet, scammers often find elderly people to be easy targets.
Many times, con-artists will create pop-ups in browser windows that simulate virus-scanning software in the hope that the person will be fooled into downloading a fake anti-virus program, or an actual virus. These malignant programs can then steal whatever information is present on the computer.
Email or phishing schemes can also provide criminals with your personal information by asking you to update certain criteria. Many times, these emails will appear to be from places like the IRS and other legitimate companies or institutions. To avoid this, it’s best to call an official representative from whatever organization the email appears to be from and ask them to verify its authenticity.
7. Investment Scams
When seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their funds, it’s no surprise that criminals try to target seniors looking to safeguard their cash. These can come in the form of pyramid schemes and are simple ways to keep you paying for non-existent stocks or the prospect of acquiring a piece of a royal fortune.
If you are thinking about making investments, always do your research and just remember the age-old statement, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
8. Sweepstakes or Lottery Fraud
Essentially, scammers surprise their victims that they have won a lottery or contest – all they need to do is make some sort of payment in order to unlock the prize. Seniors are then sent a fake check that they can deposit into their accounts, however, it can take days for these checks to bounce, giving the criminals time to take as much money in fees as possible.
9. Reverse Mortgage Scams
In this scenario, scammers mislead elderly people into taking out loans in an attempt to gain access to their personal information and funds. Other times, lenders or advisors don’t necessarily lie to the senior citizen considering a reverse mortgage, yet they push the option even if it isn’t the most suitable decision to make.
If you are genuinely sure a reverse mortgage is right for you, be wary that sometimes salespeople will attempt to pitch products or other services that are already covered in the plan. Again, doing your research and thoroughly understanding the contract of your reverse mortgage is the key to avoiding fraud.
10. The Grandparent Scam
Perhaps one of the most heinous scams out there, criminals play upon the emotions of older people in order to steal from them.
Here, con-artists make calls to older people posing as a grandchild or close relative. They will usually ask something like “Hi, grandpa! Do you know who this is?” After numerous attempts at guessing names, the scammer takes whatever role they can to eventually ask for money to be used for solving some financial problem.
Many times they will request the money be transferred through Western Union or MoneyGram, both of which don’t always require identification in order to make the collection. These scams can stretch out indefinitely as smaller collections, or in a large amount of money at a single time.
Remember, if you believe you’ve been a victim of a scam or fraud, don’t feel embarrassed to talk about the situation with someone you trust. There are numerous available resources for dealing with fraud and other forms of financial crime that can help you mitigate as much of the damage as possible.
As always, stay vigilant and skeptical of any wild claims and wonder drugs – scammers can strike when you least expect it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be prepared!