You can look forward to retirement days as you no longer the end of rat race is not too far. As lucrative as that may be, you need to be prepared to face scammers that are out there to take advantage of savings that you may have gathered.
Crimes against the elderly continue to skyrocket each year. Con artists are particularly fond of elderly widows. The scam is to find those who may be lonely or infirm, and slowly shower them with attention and small gifts to gain their confidence.
Sadly, seniors being scammed is very alarming. According to True Link research study (2015) seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse.
Senior Scams You Need to Know About
Telemarketing scam can include phone calls, snail mail and emails. Scammers will send out official-looking emails or letters, then stage a follow-up call to victims, asking for updated information, such as a password or account numbers.
With that information in hand, scammers will either charge seniors’ bank accounts or attempt to assume their identities.
Senior citizens could also receive phone calls from people trying to use deceptive tactics to sell them product. A “salesperson” will use complex wording and hidden fees to charge seniors an extra $20 or so.
Fake charities scam entails in Retirees getting a call from someone saying they represent a charity, asking for a donation. The caller is not really raising money for any charity.
In a Sweepstakes Scam Seniors are likely to get an official-looking check in the mail. An accompanying letter may tell them they won a contest. To claim the prize, the winner will need to send back a few hundred — or thousand — dollars for processing the prize. The check could even look like an IRS tax refund. They’ll ask the victim to send back a portion of the money and let them keep the rest.
The scam happens two weeks later, when the check bounces and the senior become liable for all the money.
Identity theft scamming is extensive form of telemarketing scheme as it involves scammer calling and asking for the last four digits of a senior’s Social Security number.
The scammer can then can match that information up to the rest of what they know about their victims, like their name, address and phone number. Scammers then use the stolen identity to open new credit cards or loans and rack up debt — and the senior will end up footing the bill.
Health Care Fraud
Health care fraud involves scammers to explore medical issues of the senior and promise to send relevant medication or supplies if the seniors provide insurance information. The scammers will then use that info to assume the victim’s identity.
This is a special type of fraud known as medical identity theft. Patients can end up getting billed for prescriptions or services they didn’t use, making the senior liable for medical debts incurred by the scammer.
Scammers have targeted seniors for numerous rip offs surrounding the Affordable Care Act and Medicare enrollment. Since every U.S. citizen over the age of 65 qualifies for Medicare benefits, seniors are an easy target for medical scams, because criminals don’t have to do any research around their insurance provider. Many of these scams operate via door-to-door or over-the-phone solicitations by someone claiming to be a Medicare representative.
Fake anti-aging products
No one likes to get old. That even applies to seniors as they want to cling on as much as possible. They are vulnerable to products that claim to be the perfect solution to signs of aging or other unwanted physical changes.
Seniors often feel the need to look younger to keep up in social circles or to fill some other void in their life. This leads them to seek out new treatments, medications and other remedies — making them vulnerable to scammers who capitalize on this demand. The scam normally starts with anti-wrinkle cream ‘Free’ trial offer.
Financial exploitation scam takes many forms- telemarketing, home repairs, investment, money making opportunities scams.
Scammers sometimes show up at seniors’ homes, offering to provide services and then overcharging them — whether the work was done or not.
Scammers also get seniors to sign up for long-term securities or stocks, anticipating the victims either won’t look at or understand the fine print. Seniors can get conned into buying securities or stocks that won’t mature for another 20 years. If the senior needs the money before the securities mature, they’ll pay penalty fees that end up in the scammers’ pockets.
The Grandparent scams
This is a slick scam in which scammers call senior citizens and impersonate their adult grandchildren to hit them up for money. Here’s how a typical conversation might go:
The phone rings and the senior pick up…
Scamster: (in a low tone) Grandma?
Senior: Is that you, Jimmy?
Scamster: Yes, it’s me and I’m in trouble. I’m in jail. I need you to wire money, so I can get out.
The typical take on this scam is anywhere between $3,000 and $4,000. There’s even a ‘reload’ on this one. If the scamster gets money, they’ll have another person call up impersonating a police officer and ask for additional funds for their grandchild to be released. They claim there are extra charges for property damage. Once the money is taken, you’ll never see it again.
Here are some actions that can be taken to avoid becoming a victim of a scammer.
Add Phone Numbers to the Do Not Call Registry
Register the senior’s phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry.
Sales calls should stop within 31 days of a number being registered, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
If they still receive sales calls while on the registry, hang up and submit a complaint to the FTC. It is to be noted that this registry is it only stops sales calls. It doesn’t put limits on charitable, political or survey calls.
Do Not Give Information
The best rule to follow is to never provide information in a phone call or email that was not initiated by you. It is essential to ensure the senior knows to never give personal information or money over the phone. This includes sending checks or a “deposit” to companies to claim a prize or accept an offer to work from home.
Check the Better Business Bureau
Before the senior acts on any offers, payments, donations or investments, check the Better Business Bureau for information on the company. Be cautious of letters and calls that look like they’re from the Social Security Administration or the IRS.
Keep Mail Safe
If a senior pays their bills via mail, don’t leave it sitting in the mailbox.
Take the payment to the post office or a freestanding postal service mailbox instead of leaving it laying around where it could potentially be stolen. Opt for online bill statements — it’s safer and more convenient than mailing in payments every month.
If a senior continues to receive mail that’s clearly from scammers, take it to the post office and it’ll be sent to the U.S. Postal Inspector. You could also file a mail fraud complaint online.
Remain Cautious and Ask Questions
Ask any calling salesperson for their name, business address, phone number and business license number. Verify this information before conducting any business with them, as scammers will often provide fake names and license numbers.
Don’t blindly trust people — scammers can get outrageous, even claiming they’re a “law enforcement” official trying to solve a crime that involves you, and they ask for personal information.
Make sure seniors won’t agree to anything they don’t fully understand. Never respond to sweepstakes, prize or lottery letters and phone calls. These are all scams to get personal information.
Stay Safe Online
Only make purchases from websites known to be safe and legitimate. If the safety of the site is questionable, do some research to make sure it isn’t a scam.
Educate seniors on what spam emails look like — and be sure they don’t respond to them. Personal information should never be given out via email, especially account or credit card numbers.
What Happens If Your Loved One is Scammed?
What happens if they end up getting scammed and losing money? How do you report fraud against seniors?
The first thing to do is file a police report. You’ll need a copy of the report when the fraud is reported to credit companies.
Close any accounts affected by the scam. Call the banks, explain what happened and file a fraud report if any transactions were charged to the account.
File a complaint with the FTC. It helps with fraud investigations by collecting complaints and sharing them with local police forces, credit companies and other government agencies.
If the scam involved credit card charges, report the fraud to the three major credit bureaus. Contacting all three may seem like a hassle, but it’s the only way to know the fraudulent activity will be quickly reflected on the account.
Report any identity theft to the FTC’s Identity Theft website — this includes new accounts being opened in the senior’s name, charges to current accounts or even false medical services. The FTC offers comprehensive steps to take depending on how the victim was affected.
Most people are raised to be polite and trusting. The con artist exploits these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone,” it continues. It is essential that the seniors are made aware of the abundance of scams out there and educate them on ways to protect themselves and their finances.