Beware of Common Scams Targeting Seniors
1. Grandparent scam —
Victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a family member stranded far from home. The caller may use the name of a particular family member. They say they are being held in jail, need car repairs or other assistance and need money wired immediately. The scammers may lace the conversation with correct references to other family members, increasing credibility.
Remain calm and confirm the status of the individual by calling your grandchild directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking any further action.
2. Bereavement scam —
Scammers will go through obituaries and use the information to prey on widows and widowers. They will try to sell the surviving spouse things they do not need, or say the deceased spouse had debt the surviving spouse must pay.
If you, a relative or a friend have recently lost a loved one and they are inexperienced in managing finances; tell them to ask for help. If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.
3. Foreign lotteries —
Seniors receive a letter in the mail stating they won a lottery. The letter requests they deposit an enclosed check, and then wire a portion of the deposited money back to the company to cover taxes or administrative fees. The check will initially clear, but the bank will eventually determine it is fraudulent and remove all the money from the account. The victim is out any money wired back to the scammers.
Never wire money to someone you don't know. You should never have to send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes. Additionally, participation in a foreign lottery is illegal.
4. Investment and work -at-home opportunities —
Promises of easy money often target older adults because they may be looking to supplement their income. The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. However, what looks like a great opportunity for seniors is really just a great opportunity for scammers.
5. Medicare scams -
Navigating the Medicare system isn't easy and some scammers will look for any opportunity to take advantage of the confusion. Commonly, a scammer will claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. The victim might be given any number of excuses to provide this information including that an error needs to be fixed, that they are part of a survey or eligible to receive free products or can sign up for a new prescription drug plan.
Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information. If you suspect fraud contact your local police, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS or the BBB
6. Deceptive door -to door sales -
While many scams targeting senior citizens might not have a face, some scammers including contractors, chimney sweeps, air duct cleaners and other technicians just show up at the front doors of seniors and are invited into their homes. Some of these "professionals" will lie about the extent of the problem or claim safety issues and then inflate prices for unsuspecting customers.
Find professionals you can trust by checking out BBB's directory of Accredited Businesses. Always research a company with BBB® before you hand over any money and report any deceptive services to your BBB®, local law enforcement and the state Attorney General.
7. Social Security scams -
Thieves are pretending to be Social Security Administration (SSA) employees and call, email or mail seniors with the intent of getting personal information. The con artists say they are updating your records and need your Social Security number, birth date, mother's maiden name and bank account number.
Before giving any information call or visit a Social Security office to verify that the contact is real.
Why Are Seniors Targeted?
1. More likely to be at home to answer the door or phone
2. More trusting and less likely to suspect a con artist.
3. Often lonely and susceptible to a friendly pitch.
4. May be physically incapable of making their own home repairs, exposing them to pitches from itinerant workers who knock on their door and offer cheap repairs.
5. May be on fixed incomes, making them more vulnerable to promises of high investment returns or savings on medical care,
6. May own their homes free and clear making them targets of predatory lenders.