26 Feb Fight Fraud: Know How the Game is Played and Get Tips to Win
Financially stable older adults are often targeted by scammers, so they need to be especially wary of fraud schemes. They usually own their homes, have retirement nest eggs, and strong credit ratings. Unfortunately, they are less likely to report being victims of fraud since they fear loved ones may decide they’re incompetent to maintain their own affairs. Let’s take a look at 10 scams targeting older adults.
Funeral and cemetery scams prey on the grieving widow. In one type, an unscrupulous funeral director will charge the family for unnecessary services, such as a casket for a person who has been cremated. In another type of scam, complete strangers will show up to a funeral and claim the deceased has an outstanding debt that must be settled.
To prevent these types of scams, loved ones should be wary of making decisions in a heightened state of emotion. Family members should carefully review the charges of the funeral service and not be afraid to ask questions about services that don’t make sense. They should also never pay a debt without a history of documented proof. Realize, too, that reputable creditors would never show up to the funeral demanding money.
Medicare insurance scams present as a bogus mobile clinic or call from a fake Medicare representative. They will request personally identifiable information like date of birth, Medicare card number, credit card information, and social security number. Thereafter, scammers will use the information to steal the person’s identity or make fraudulent charges.
To keep fraudsters at bay, apply for or request a new Medicare card in one of three ways:
- Online at socialsecurity.gov
- By phone to the Social Security office at 800-772-1213
- In-person at a Social Security office
Homeowner and reverse mortgage scams involve preying on those who own their homes outright. In the homeowner scam, a representative will call or send letters claiming that homeowners can get their property values reassessed for a fee. In the reverse mortgage scam, fraudsters urge older adults to do repairs on their homes by getting a reverse mortgage.
Homeowners should decline offers to have their property values reassessed. If they want an assessment, they can wait until the specified time for that county, or they can contact their bank or town hall. Also, they should avoid people who try to persuade them to get costly repairs on their homes and make other purchases by reversing their mortgage.
Counterfeit prescription drug scams generally take place online. Older adults increasingly turn to the Internet to find better prices on high priced prescription drugs. When they purchase them online, they not only open themselves up to credit card fraud, but they also often receive fake prescription drugs that won’t help their condition and may even contain toxic substances that can harm their health.
To avoid this vicious scam, those in need of more affordable medications should talk to their doctor or pharmacist. They can determine if there are lower priced or generic brands that might be suitable. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for samples of the medication or opportunities to participate in medical studies that will provide the medication free of charge.
Grandparent scams are some of the most diabolical of them all. They exploit the loving and trusting relationship between a grandparent and a beloved grandchild. Impostors will call, pretending to be the grandchild or an official such as a police officer or lawyer. They will share a dire story of being stranded by a car wreck or locked in jail for driving under the influence. Then they will ask the grandparent to wire money or provide credit card information by phone. Often, these calls are made in the middle of the night, when the grandparent is most likely asleep and, therefore, not in a frame of mind to question the event.
If someone receives such a call, the best thing to do is ask questions. If the person is claiming to be the grandchild, ask a question only the grandchild would know. If the caller is faking as an official, ask for a phone number to call back. Then call the grandchild or another relative to substantiate the story.
Fraudulent anti-aging products are hot and heavy on the market, making scammers rich before victims catch on. The expectation of youthful looks throughout life harm older adults who may purchase the products to avoid age discrimination and failure to meet societal standards. Victims who purchase these products not only lose money, but may suffer health consequences from using products containing toxic substances.
To avoid purchasing fake anti-aging products, older adults should first ask a primary care doctor or dermatologist about prescription anti-aging products. If purchasing online, consumers should check reviews for particular products on a variety of sites before making a purchase. They should also check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating to make sure the company has been in business for a while with a strong score.
Investment scams capitalize on a person’s quest to retire with a strong portfolio. Often, a charlatan will call claiming to represent a powerful company with insider information about secret investments. The scammer will take the money and maybe even provide proof of the growing stock, but then pull the money for personal gain.
Investors should avoid making investment decisions via phone. It’s best to manage one’s own portfolio or talk with a financial advisor.
Telemarketing scams are pervasive because they are hard to trace. With no shopping facility, paper trail or face-to-face interaction, scammers can get away easily. Often, victims are called and asked to make online purchases for fake goods, services, or charities. In the end, the fraudsters get money, and the victims get nothing.
To avoid telemarketing scams, older adults should avoid giving out credit card information over the phone or wiring money to someone with an unproven identity.
Internet fraud involves email and phishing scams, requesting that recipients click a link to update or verify their information. This link often takes them to the web page of the fraudster who uses their personal information to steal their identity or credit card details. Another type of Internet scam involves fake pop-up ads claiming there is a virus on the computer. When the person clicks on the ad, a dangerous virus may be unleashed on the computer, or the person may be directed to provide credit card details to make repairs.
To avoid Internet fraud, older adults should never click on ad links claiming there is a virus on the computer. They should also avoid opening email links sent by someone they do not know. If a message comes in that claims information needs to be verified, it’s best to contact the company at the known phone number and ask if information is needed. More times than not, it’s a phishing email attack.
Sweepstakes and lottery scams prove the notion, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” Victims are asked to send in a small fee to release their prize winnings. Once they receive the prize check, they deposit it, but it does not show if it bounced for few days. In that time, the scammer takes the victim’s fee, and the victim is left with nothing but penalties on a bounced check.
The way to avoid this scam is to never pay a fee for prizes. If a fee is required, it probably is a scam. What’s more, if someone calls asking for a prize fee over the phone, it’s okay to simply hang up.
Here are a few other ways older adults can protect themselves from thieves looking for easy cash:
- Check credit reports each month.
- Use two-factor identification for financial services.
- Sign up for identity theft protection.
- Shred sensitive financial and personal data.
- Don’t sign confusing documents. Read first. Ask questions. Don’t let anyone rush a signature.
Use these tips to protect yourself against fraud. Thought this was interesting? Learn more about fraud here.
Brandon, Emily. (2018) “How to Avoid Medicare Scams.” U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from: https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/medicare/articles/2018-06-04/how-to-avoid-medicare-scams.
“Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors.” (2018) National Council on Aging (NCOA). Retrieved from: https://www.ncoa.org/economic-security/money-management/scams-security/top-10-scams-targeting-seniors/.