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5 Senior Scams To Watch Out For (& Avoid)

5 Senior Scams to Watch Out For (& Avoid)

While inconceivable to most, criminals intentionally prey on older adults in an attempt to steal their money or identity. Scammers view seniors as easy targets because they are thought to have substantial savings and may be vulnerable due to social isolation or cognitive problems. The first step to protect yourself or your senior loved one from being victimized is to learn about common risks and scams. Here is list of common scams targeting seniors.

Medicare Scams

In these type of scams, a criminal posing as a Medicare representative tells older adults that they must replace their Medicare cards in an attempt to collect personal information. Or, they operate “rolling labs,” a sort of makeshift mobile clinic, where they provide unnecessary health checks or fake tests, then bill insurance companies or Medicare and pocket the money.

In order to avoid this scam, never disclose your Social Security or Medicare information to people you don’t know and trust. Medicare will not call you on the phone or randomly show up at your door! Also, be cautious of temporary medical clinics offering free services at shopping centers, fitness clubs, and retirement homes.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams

The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud targeting seniors.

In one method, scammers read obituaries and attend funeral services of strangers in order to take advantage of a grieving elderly person, typically a widow or widower. They often claim that the deceased person owed them money and in an effort to get relatives to pay back the fake debt.

Although it’s hard to believe, funeral homes are also known to prey on grieving families by taking advantage of the fact that most are unfamiliar with the cost of funeral services. This usually involves extra charges being added to the bill or persistent sales of expensive items like caskets.

When planning a funeral for a loved one, it’s normal to be in a vulnerable state of grief. If possible, enlist a levelheaded friend or family member with good business sense to help with the funeral arrangements to avoid being taken advantage of.

Email Scams

Although email scams are widespread, seniors who are not very experienced with technology are at higher risk of being conned. A common scenario includes email messages notifying seniors that they’ve won a sweepstakes or lottery but they must first pay a certain amount to redeem the prize. Scammers might even request personal information such as bank routing and account numbers to cash in, while the information will actually be used for theft.  In another popular email scam, a senior receives a message that appears to be from the IRS requesting that personal information be updated for tax refund purposes.

To avoid these types of scams, use discretion when opening unsolicited emails and don’t respond to them or provide personal information. You can always call a company directly if you have questions about whether an email is legitimate. Also, remember that government institutions, including the IRS, will never contact you for your information online.

Phone Scams

Similar to email, phone scams that target seniors often involve fake sweepstakes and contest prizes that can be redeemed by paying small fee. Scammers on the phone create a high-pressure situation claiming that the offer is “one-time only” forcing the senior to make a split second decision to hand over personal payment information.

In another despicable phone scam known as the “grandparent scam” con artists call seniors pretending to be their grandchildren. They tell a fictional sob story and plead for money to help get them out of trouble, typically stealing between $3,000-$4,000 from the unsuspecting senior.

To avoid being scammed, take time to think before making purchasing decisions. A legitimate company will never force someone to make a quick decision over the phone. Never give out personal information over the phone to companies or people you don’t trust.

Reverse Mortgage Scams

Reverse mortgage scams are some of the most complicated scams to pull off, however they are enticing for criminals because they also yield some of the highest returns. Essentially, a criminal affiliated with a phony financial institution, sells a senior a reverse mortgage, and ends up stealing the equity. Scammers are also targeting senior homeowners by offering a fake property assessment on the home’s value for a small fee.

To avoid being victimized, have a family member or friend who is knowledgeable about finances assist you or your senior loved one when considering a reverse mortgage, any important financial decisions regarding large assets such as a home.

Being aware of senior scams and staying involved in your loved one’s life can help prevent them from being victimized. If you are not able to be with them 24/7, enlisting the help of an in-home caregiver can give you peace of mind knowing that someone is there to watch out for your loved ones well-being. Call Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation to see how we can support your family.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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