Senior Fraud Protection Tips

Posted on September 18, 2012

Fraud against older Americans is a serious problem affecting thousands of elders every year. This information may help prevent your elder loved one from falling victim to scams.

 

Why are seniors vulnerable to scams?

  • Seniors tend to trust, are often courteous and polite, and expect others to be equally trustworthy.
  • Seniors tend to have good credit, savings, investments and equity in their homes.
  • Seniors are often socially isolated, lonely and vulnerable.
  • Seniors are frequently technologically naïve.
  • Seniors may have early dementia, depression or memory loss contributing to poor judgment, problem solving and reasoning skills.
  • Seniors are often too embarrassed to report scams and also not likely to know how to report scams.

 

How do scammers work?

Telephone scams – Scammers call elders, pretending to represent charities, associations, governmental agencies and/or the elderly person’s bank or financial institution.

Mail scams– Some of the most common mail scams are fake checks, phony lottery and sweepstakes offers, free prize or vacation scams, requests from fraudulent charities, reverse mortgage, inheritance and investment scams.

Email scams- Phishing (The fraudulent practice of sending e-mails purporting to be from legitimate companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information) is a common practice. Scammers pretend to be financial institutions or well-known companies and send spam messages asking seniors to “verify” account information and social security numbers.

 

What can caregivers do about elderly scams?

Caregivers can take action as well as educate and warn elderly loved ones about some common scams. Some tips include:

  • Get involved with elder loved ones financial matters as much as possible. Regularly review elders’ checking activity, account balances, credit card, investments and financial statements.
  • Warn your elderly loved one not to give out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to callers.
  • A current elder scam involves calls from the “U.S. Medicare Office” requesting seniors’ personal and banking information in order to replace old Medicare cards.
  • If an elder loved one has received this type of call, contact, the SMP hotline, toll-free at 888-515-6565 or the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477 to report Medicare or Medicaid fraud.
  • Scammers may also pose as charities requesting donations. Check the legitimacy of charitable agencies at http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/.
  • Advise your elder relative to use caller-ID to screen calls, answering only when it is a recognized phone number.
  • Put the senior’s phone number on the National Do Not Call registry by phoning 1-888-382-1222 or visiting www.donotcall.gov (this will help to limit phone calls from telemarketers.)
  • If your elderly relative is getting junk mail asking for money in exchange for free gifts or winnings, or if they are receiving checks that require wiring money, call the U.S. Postal Inspector Service at 877-876-2455 to report it.
  • To reduce junk mail delivery go to OptOutPreScreen.com, which can enable you to remove your senior relative’s name from lists that mortgage, credit card and insurance companies use to mail offers and solicitations. Also, register seniors with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). DMA and they will be listed in the “Do Not Mail” category.
  • Visit elderly relatives regularly. Ask about phone calls or door-to-door solicitations that they may have received (con artists tend to develop relationships with their victims and prey on their need for conversation).
  • Advise your elderly relative never to hire someone who just shows up at his or her door. If they are told that the roof needs repair, the scammer may take money, but never do the work.
  • Counsel your elderly loved one never to make an “on-the-spot” decision. If a telemarketer or sales person says you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss the opportunity, it is likely a scam. Legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without taking the time to look into the deal.

(Sources: www.agingcare.com; http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/junkmail.htm)

 

To Report Elder Scams in PA:

 

To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Pennsylvania:

  • 1-800-490-8505

 

For more information on scam protection: 

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/fraud-5-scams-aimed-at-the-elderly-1.aspx

http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/elderly-identity-theft-victims-frauds-scams-cons-139206.htm