With the holidays and a new year around the corner, Senior Lifestyle wants to provide awareness of common scams aimed at seniors as well as ways to avoid these scams. We also encourage our residents and families to speak up if they feel they’ve been a victim of fraud. The earlier a scam is detected, the higher the chance of making any kind of financial recovery as well as stopping the perpetrator from victimizing another person.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, fraud against seniors is becoming more prevalent and is often difficult to combat. Many seniors who have been victims of con artists are reluctant to report the fraudulent activity out of embarrassment or fear that they will be seen as unable to manage their financial affairs. Seniors can also become easy targets for scammers because of their inherent belief that others are as honest as they are, and their perceived susceptibility to products that promise improved cognitive function, renewed health or immunity to diseases such as cancer.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) notes that seniors are seen as good targets because of the perception that they have a sizeable nest egg. NCOA shares some valuable tools to avoid scams aimed at seniors by highlighting several of the most common scenarios:
- Lottery/Sweepstakes scams
This trick, while old, still circulates regularly. Victims are told they have won a sweepstakes or lottery, but that they must make a payment to cover “taxes and fees” on their winnings. Often, seniors who fall for the ruse are sent a check that initially appears to have great value, and only a few days later, bounces. During that lag time, the con artists will pocket the money for “taxes and fees.”
How to Avoid: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that if you have won any kind of prize, you shouldn’t be asked to pay mysterious and suspicious fees within a day or two of the award.
- Charity scams
In the wake of natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and wildfires, we can often feel helpless to provide aid to those impacted. One particularly repugnant scam often occurs in the aftermath of major disasters. Callers claim to represent a charity seeking money to help pay for disaster recovery or aid for the victims. The money is then misdirected to the scammer’s account. Some charity scammers will send emails soliciting donations as well. Often the email contains a link to a purportedly legitimate charity organization which sends unsuspecting seniors to a bogus website that looks just similar enough to the actual organization’s website to scam would-be donors.
How to Avoid: If you wish to donate to charity following a disaster seek out the charity yourself. Do not make donations to organizations that cold-call you.
- Medicare Card and Medicaid Card ID Theft Scam
Callers claiming to represent various government agencies or organizations tell seniors that their Medicare or Medicaid cards must be replaced. This is merely a ruse to get a senior’s personal information to perpetrate identity theft. This information is then used to bill Medicare for fraudulent charges.
How to Avoid: Never give personal information like your social security number or banking information over the phone, and be suspicious of calls from people who claim to represent official agencies and then request personal information.
Be sure to warn senior family members and friends to practice caution when sharing information over the phone or the internet and to ask for advice if they are unsure whether to share private information. By staying alert to scammers and being vigilant about personal information, as well as reporting when a scam is suspected, we can make a con artist’s job much more difficult and eventually impossible! To learn more about this topic or others covered at Senior Lifestyle communities, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.