With one in 10 Americans 65 and older falling victim to scams, the facts can be scary. And the losses are big as seniors are now losing an estimated $2.9 billion annually according to a report by the Senate Special Committee on Aging. But that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable your loved one will be one of those victims. Not if we can help it! Here’s what to look out for and how to help your loved one avoid senior scams.
Common Senior Scams
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) considers these some of the most common scams targeting seniors:
- Health Insurance Scams – Scammers claim to be a Medicare representative and may tell the senior they need a new Medicare card, a new supplemental policy or are trying to bill Medicare on your loved one’s behalf and need personal information such as their Social Security Number to do so.
- Telemarketing Scams – A lack of face-to-face interaction is a big factor in the success of these scams that may offer free trials, extended warranties, investment opportunities, cheap or free travel, fake prizes or money and/or advance loans in exchange for personal information or money to cover “taxes and fees.” Other tactics include pretending to be IRS agents trying to collect a debt or offer a refund as well as impersonating family members in need.
- Charity Scams – Seniors are often approached by scammers who claim to be seeking donations to a worthy cause, but are actually trying to take the victim’s money and/or steal their identity. This is even more common after natural disasters, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately.
- Online Fraud – Among the most common are phishing scams where an email will appear to be from a bank, credit card or other legitimate business claiming that your password, account or other personal information is needed to fix a problem. Other scams include fake virus pop-ups and worse, real viruses released on your computer to force a payment.
- Counterfeit Products – This could be anything from medications to anti-aging products. Scammers prey on the fact that many seniors are on a budget and offer their products for much less than they would normally cost. Aside from losing money, these products could be harmful to your loved one’s health as well, particularly the medications.
- Funeral Fraud – Unfortunately even grieving widows and widowers are a popular target as scammers keep track of obituaries to find targets. Then they’ll contact the senior (some even show up at funerals) to claim the deceased had debts that need to be paid.
What to Watch for With Senior Scams
Even with the most sophisticated scammers, there are usually some tell-tale signs to watch for such as:
- Claiming you need to “act now”
- Using bad English or typos in the communications
- Asking you to pay to receive something free
- Instructing you to pay a debt by wiring money or sending a gift card
- Asking you to deposit funds or forward money to someone other than the person contacting you
- A random “pop-up” in a new browser window
- A web page or email that looks a little different from how this company usually looks
Protecting Your Loved One
In addition to being aware of common scams and having an idea of what to watch for, these tips can also help protect your loved one:
- Ask them to discuss unsolicited offers, requests for money or personal information with a friend or family member that they trust.
- Advise them to never share their social security number, credit card, bank information, account passwords or other personal information with strangers who contact them. In general, it’s best to give as little personal data as possible even in legitimate circumstances.
- Have them ask for written details of any offers or prizes in which they may be eligible and wait to respond until you have reviewed the information thoroughly.
- Advise them not to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts until all their questions are answered.
- Specific to charitable donation requests, have them double-check the charity’s rating through BBB Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator.
- Specific to shopping online, advise them to use familiar and/or trusted websites and make sure the URL starts with HTTPS and/or look for the padlock icon before purchasing.
In addition, make sure your loved one checks bank and credit card statements regularly, that their anti-virus program is regularly updated, that they create strong passwords which are changed often and that they never enter personal information when using public Wi-Fi.
See how else we can help your loved one by downloading our Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing. Or, call (224) 333-6247 to speak to a team member.