According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), scams that target seniors are being called the “crime of the 21st century” because they have become so prevalent. The reason? The thinking is that seniors must have a healthy bank account, equity in their home and they may be an easier target. It’s not just the well-to-do who are targeted either; low income seniors are just as vulnerable. And sadly, more than 90% of reported elder abuse is committed by family members, including adult children and grandchildren.
Below is a list compiled by the NCOA of the most common types of scams. To read the full article, which also includes some resources, find it online here.
- Medical / health insurance – someone poses as a Medicare representative to get your personal information. Never give your personal information over the phone to someone you don’t know.
- Counterfeit prescription drugs – most commonly occurs when people are looking for cheaper drugs on the internet. The greatest danger is getting unsafe or ineffective drugs and worsening a medical condition, or even doing harm.
- Funeral and cemetery scams – according to the FBI, one common scam is to find a living relative through an obituary and call to demand payment on outstanding debt of the deceased. The second most common scam is for a disreputable funeral home to add additional or unnecessary charges, putting pressure on a grieving family. Whenever possible, talk with people you know and trust about reputable funeral homes.
- Fraudulent anti-aging products – it’s a youth culture, and many of us are susceptible to those pitches to “look 20 years younger.” Be leery of treatments that claim to turn the clock back. Fake Botox is a favorite lately with potential health consequences, and there are plenty of bogus homeopathic remedies out there as well.
- Telemarketing/phone scams – some of the most common scams are fake telemarketers, and these are some of the hardest to track. Because shopping by phone is more common, people may be more easily taken. Ask for information about the product or service, company name, even the sales person’s name so you can do your own research before buying.
- Internet fraud – The most common scam is a “phishing” email that asks you to click a link to update or verify personal information. Don’t open things from people you don’t know. Also, it’s smart to have virus and hacker software on your computer to help filter out some of these types of scams.
- Investment schemes – these often target seniors looking to safeguard retirement funds. Attempts range from pyramid schemes and reverse mortgages to Nigerian princes looking for someone to help them claim inheritance money.
- Sweepstakes and lottery wins – scammers alert you that you’ve won something, but you need to make a payment to unlock the full prize. Sound too good to be true? It most likely is.
- The grandparent call – a particularly devious approach, the caller starts with, “Hello grandma, do you know who this is?” Once you guess a name, off they go. The caller says they are in trouble (car accident, short on rent) and they can’t tell their parents because they’ll get in more trouble; can you help them by lending them some money via Moneygram or Western Union.
If you suspect something is a scam, or you have been scammed, don’t be embarrassed, get help. Reach out to someone you trust or your local Adult Protective Services or Area on Aging. And remember, a little caution can go a long way; there’s no need to be in a hurry to respond, do your homework first.