Scammed: Protecting seniors from fraud
The top five senior scams and tips to avoid them
Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common. Senior scams are putting many older adults in harm’s way – threatening to strip them of their assets, identity, independence, and trust. According to the National Council on Aging, "financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered 'the crime of the 21st century.'"
Senior living communities nationwide are working diligently to inform and warn seniors about the risks of elder financial abuse. Thanks to these efforts, many seniors living in retirement communities say they feel more educated about scams than they did when they lived alone.
According to the National Association of Triads, the top five scams involving seniors are:
1. Telemarketing that includes the Internet, phones, and mail
Scammers are known to send out emails on bank letterhead that say there is a problem with an account. They ask the senior to update information, passwords, and account numbers. With this information, the scammers now have access to the account. To avoid this scam, check with your bank to make sure they, in fact, sent the email. But remember, trusted sources will never ask you to change vital information or provide personal information via email.
2. Fake charities
In this scam, you may get a call from a charity saying it is supporting a reputable organization and ask you to make a donation. The problem is, this charity may not be authorized to fundraise. As little as 3 percent may end up going to the organization, while 97 percent goes into the scammer’s pocket. To avoid paying for the scammer’s fancy dinners and vacations, contact the organization directly if you would like to make a donation. You will be much safer by avoiding third-party collectors.
In many cases with sweepstakes, seniors will receive an official-looking check. The account number is fraudulent, but the routing number is correct, so a bank would read this as a valid check. The scam happens when a senior cashes the check. The fine print outlines that the senior receives a small amount of money but owes $5,000 for processing. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Healthcare fraud
In some instances, scammers identify seniors with specific ailments or diseases. In one hypothetical scenario, the scammers will call a senior with diabetes and tell him or her that they can send supplies and medication through the mail if the senior provides his or her Medicare card number. With that information the scammers can now obtain free treatment by assuming the senior’s identity. To stay safe against scammers, do not provide your personal information or government issued information to anyone over the phone. If you have questions about your coverage and to avoid elder financial abuse, contact your healthcare provider directly.
5. Financial exploitation
In this type of senior scam, thieves will sell seniors long-term securities or stock and rely on the seniors’ inability to understand the fine print. For example, one scam would include selling a woman in her 80s a certificate that does not mature for 20-25 years. If she needs the money at any point, she must break the bond and pay the penalties, which is how scammers make a commission. To protect yourself from this type of financial exploitation, consult a trusted family member or friend before taking a financial risk.
Avoid becoming a victim
Scammers are becoming more tech-savvy and tricky, but taking advantage of free tools will be your best defense against scammers. Attending informational seminars or events provided by your local Holiday Retirement community can be the best source of information against fraud and senior scams. You can also reach out to someone you trust, such as your doctor or family members, if you are uncomfortable about a situation involving your finances.
Residents of Holiday Retirement communities receive helpful tips and information regarding fraud prevention and safety on a regular basis. Many current residents feel secure and educated about senior scams. Get in touch with us today to learn more.