It’s very sad but true: senior citizens lose billions of dollars a year to scams. Here are some of the more common scams as well as several pearls of wisdom to help avoid falling victim to a scam.
Phone scams—ID Spoofing
Con artists can now have caller ID say the name of a bank or even a charity when they call. Then they con the target into giving out personal information to breach that person’s account or they ask for money for the charity that never really gets to the charity.
MassHealth/Medicare Insurance Scams
Since every U.S. citizen in Massachusetts over the age of 65 qualifies for Medicare, criminals use that knowledge to scam the elderly. The criminal might call claiming to be a Medicare representative asking you for your Social Security number or trying to sell you on “new supplemental policies.”
Prescription Drug Scams
Prescription drugs can be very expensive. Even with Medicare coverage, seniors can be left to pay large amounts of money. That’s why seniors are open to finding medications that will cost them less money. So when a scammer calls with a great prescription drug offer, and is given a credit card number, the money is taken from the target and no medications are provided. Even worse, sometimes fake drugs are provided that can be harmful if used.
Some seniors have saved money for retirement but want to make a savvy investment so they can live more comfortably. They get approached with fake low-risk or no-risk investments with guaranteed returns, an investment opportunity in a “solid” business, or a chance to buy a property that doesn’t exist. Investment scams can wipe out a person’s savings very quickly.
Internet and Email Scams
Fake “security engineers” make calls to convince people their computers are at risk for a security threat. The caller then asks the target to give them remote access to their computer for a “diagnosis and fix.” Once the caller has remote access, they download software to the target’s computer that allows them to steal money from the target’s accounts.
Reverse Mortgage Scams
Reverse mortgages turn home equity into a reliable stream of income. While sometimes a good option for seniors, a scam artist can propose a reverse mortgage, and then steal the equity. Scammers might also offer a property assessment of the home, providing a fake assessment in return for a real fee.
A scam artist does a little research on the internet, and then with some basic details convinces the senior that their grandchild is in trouble. The scammer asks for financial help for an emergency situation and the money gets wired to the scammer. The reality is that the grandchild is just fine.
How to Protect Yourself or a Loved One
- Ask questions. Obtain a name, address, phone number, and website for the person you’re talking to. Scammers sometimes get scared away by this tactic.
- Always be suspicious. If you get a cold call or unsolicited letter or email, be skeptical about it.
- Think it through. Never hand over money or personal information until you’ve had time to do some careful research.
- Access the Better Business Bureau. If a company isn’t registered with the BBB, it could be fraudulent.
- Use the internet as a research tool. Sometimes just by quickly searching online, you can find other people who have been approached in a similar way using a comparable scheme. Keep in mind, that if your caller directs you to a website, it’s really very easy to quickly get a professional-looking website up and running. So just because the caller has a website, doesn’t mean they’re from a legitimate business.
- Never provide money to get a prize.
- Invest wisely. Find a financial advisor or counselor you can trust, and run all investment ideas by them.
- Beware of emails that look unusual. Don’t click on links or open attachments.