Unfortunately, fraud against seniors has become extremely prevalent in America. Financial scams against the elderly affect thousands every year and can be devastating to those who live on a fixed income and have little time to recoup losses.
Scammers prey on targets of opportunity. Factors like loneliness, cognitive impairment, and coming from an era where people were raised to be polite and trusting often make seniors more susceptible to fraud.
Education and awareness is key in helping seniors avoid getting scammed. We are less likely to be conned into something we have been warned about. Sharing your knowledge about scams and knowing what to watch for can protect your friends and loved ones.
According to The National Council on Aging these are a few of the top financial scams targeting seniors.
- Medicare/Health Insurance Scams
All U.S. citizens over the age of 65 qualify for Medicare benefits. Because of this, seniors are an easy target for medical fraud since scammers already know their insurance provider.
Scam artists will pretend they are a Medicare employee and try to get seniors to provide personal information or pay additional fees.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Because many seniors are on a fixed income, the lure of finding an expensive prescription drug at a fraction of the cost online is very appealing. However, if these pills are fake, they are not only impacting your pocketbook, but your health as well. Visit the FDA website to determine if a prescription drug company is reputable or not.
- Funeral and Cemetery Scams
Scammers will read the obituaries in the local newspapers and show up at funerals and family residences after a loved one has passed to take advantage of the situation. Many times they will claim the deceased owed a debt or was a close friend who said they would give them money. Additionally, some funeral homes take advantage of a grieving family and charge them exorbitant fees.
- Telemarketing/Phone Scams
Scammers love to use phone scams on seniors. The lack of a paper trail and face to face contact make it a desirable way to scam. These criminals use a variety of tactics from asking them to send money under the ploy that a loved one or family member needs help due to an accident to pretending to solicit money for a charity or disaster relieve effort.
- Sweetheart Scam
This scam can be done online, in-person or on the phone. The scam artist uses emotion to convince the victim that they are in love and con them out of money. According to AgingCare.com, the number one target of sweetheart scams is usually men and women over age 60. Lonely individuals and seniors—especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees are prime prey for this type of scam.
If you think you’ve been scammed, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. The longer you wait to tell someone, the worse it could get. As soon as you suspect you have been scammed:
- Call local law enforcement
- Call your financial institution/credit card company
- If the scammer has any of your personal information, contact the credit bureaus and place a free 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports.
- If the scammer has your social security number, notify the Social Security Administration
- Contact Adult Protective Services if warranted. Reset your passwords and personal identification number(s)
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission and the State Attorney’s Office