If you are over 65, you probably grew up in an era when business was done with a firm handshake; unfortunately, crooks today are playing on that trust.
The Federal Trade Commission says that fraud complaints to its offices by individuals 60 and older rose at least 47 percent between 2012 and 2014. Seniors are the predominant victims of impostor schemes, where criminals pose as authority figures and claim that money is owed. They also are hit hard by scams involving prizes, sweepstakes and gifts.
This guide identifies eight of the most common scams that target seniors, along with the common warning signs of each scam and information on how you can avoid becoming a victim.
The Attorney General in your State also assists with Consumer Fraud investigations impacting state residents. To find out who is the Attorney General in your own state visit this website:
A handyman shows up at your home unsolicited and offers to do repairs at a very reasonable rate. No contracts are signed, and no references are checked. The so- called handyman asks you for money upfront to pay for supplies. He begins the work but then disappears with the money, leaving the job unfinished and you with more household problems than before.
Scammers often play on your loneliness. They can break your heart and your bank account. Typically, you would meet the con artist through a social networking or dating site. The scammer, who will say that they are in another city or country, will then proceed to build a relationship with you.
The con artist will eventually state they want to meet you in person. Around this time, the criminal will seek assistance from you in covering travel costs. A variation on this theme includes the criminal asking you to send money to help them visit a sick relative. Of course, the requests for help are all a scam, and the money you wired is now in the hands of the con artist.
Phishing is the act of sending an email falsely claiming to be a legitimate business in an attempt to trick you into divulging personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers and bank account information. The emails are usually very realistic, with company logos, links and branding. These emails sometimes include a link to a fake website set up to steal your information. Other emails include attachments that, when opened, install malware on your computer in order for hackers to steal your personal information.
In a grandparent scam, a scammer calls or emails you and poses as a grandchild in legal trouble or as someone claiming to represent the relative (such as a lawyer or law enforcement agent). Using Facebook and other social media sites, the scammer will know just enough information, such as where your grandkids live, where they are vacationing or other personal details and use this information to convince you that this is your relative. You are then instructed to wire money to the scam artist with the claim that the funds will be used for bail money, lawyer’s fees, hospital bills or other expenses. You are also urged not to tell anyone, such as the parent of the “grandchild.”
The overpayment scam targets people selling items online on websites such as Craigslist and eBay. If you were selling an item online, the potential buyer would offer to pay you more money than the agreed price. At the time of transaction, they’ll send a real cashier’s check that has no monetary value tied to it. Or they’ll send a fake PayPal email that requires you to show a “shipping/tracking number” before the funds are transferred. By the time you’ve sent the item, it’s too late.
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 your personal information, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. You might be given any number of excuses to provide this information, including an error that needs to be fixed, that you 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 you to ask for personal financial information.
Many charities depend on the generosity and donations of individuals, and seniors are some of the most giving people. Unfortunately, some crooks take advantage of your generosity. Heart-breaking appeals are used with high pressure tactics to force you to make quick decisions and big donations with little detail about the charity and how it operates.
You may get a phone call from someone claiming you have won a prize, such as a vacation or a lottery. Sometimes you may get a notice in the mail. To claim your prize, there are often costly strings attached.
Look for these red flags:
A very common phone scam involves a caller impersonating an IRS agent. The caller tells the elderly person that they owe taxes and they have to pay immediately. To make it sound real and increase the chance of payment, the amount is usually a few hundred dollars and cents. Scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation and license revocation among other things. Some IRS scams may say you’re entitled to a huge refund which requires the individual to provide bank information to collect.
Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it appear that the IRS or another Government agency is calling. The callers may use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to create the belief that they have access to confidential data.
The IRS will never:
Should you or someone you know receive one of these calls and believe that they do owe taxes, hang up immediately and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. An actual IRS employee will help them determine whether or not there is a tax issue.
If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason think that you do and receive one of these calls, do not give out any information and hang up immediately. You can then contact the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting line at 1-800-366-4484. Read More Here
It is estimated that only one in 100 cases of fraud among seniors is reported. Many seniors are just too embarrassed to reveal they’ve been duped. Other times they don’t know where to go to report the crime. If you’ve been a victim of fraud, don’t stay silent — report it.
You should keep the phone numbers of the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts) and Adult Protective Services on hand.
To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website: