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Beware of these 9 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone
May 10 2019 • by Deirdre Jannerelli • Security

As part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which will take place on June 15th, we'd like to take a moment to raise awareness of elder financial abuse and the growing number of fraudulent schemes targeting older Americans.

There are a variety of scams facing seniors, but they’re all designed with one goal in mind – to steal money from unsuspecting victims. And one of the ways that scammers prey on older Americans is by pretending to be people they trust. It’s not uncommon for fraudsters to pose as family members, friends, bank employees, nurses, or lawyers.

Here are some of the more prevalent scams that are being unleashed on older Americans:

1. Posing as a utility worker. The scammer may claim that they need access to the victim’s home to check on the cable, gas line, or electric meter, when in fact they’re looking for a way inside to steal cash, jewelry, and other valuable items.

2. Pretending to be a repairman. This is a popular scam, especially during the spring and summer months. The scammer will offer to complete repairs or renovations for the victim, such as fixing the roof or repaving the driveway. They may demand payment up front and never complete the job, or do a minimum amount of work and then demand a significant payment on the spot before leaving the job unfinished.

3. Taking advantage of a victim’s grandparent status. This scam, commonly referred to as the “Grandparent Scam”, usually comes in the form of a phone call. The caller might identify themselves as the victim’s grandchild and claim they’re in jail and immediately need bail money. Or they could say they’re calling on behalf of a grandchild who’s been in a traffic accident and request cash to pay for urgent medical attention.

4. Claiming that the victim has won a lottery or sweepstakes prize. With this type of scam, the victim receives a phone call, email, or letter stating that they’ve won a prize. They’re also told that they must pay taxes on their winnings, often to the tune of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. They’re then instructed to make payment before they can collect their prize. In reality, there’s no prize to speak of.

5. Requesting a charity donation. Fraudsters may do this one over the phone or in person, tugging at the heartstrings of victims by saying they need donations for such causes as helping abused animals or assisting injured military personnel with overwhelming medical expenses. The victim makes their “donation”, but the funds only end up in the scammer’s pocket.

6. Posing as a financial advisor. Some thieves will pretend to be financial experts, promising substantial returns if the victim invests with them. In the end they’re just angling for a way to grab the money and go.

7. Using Medicare as leverage. In this type of scam, crooks pretend to be Medicare representatives and call the victim requesting their personal information. That information may then be used to steal the victim’s identify, or used to bill Medicare for fake services so the scammer can pocket the payments.

8. Sending phishing emails. In phishing scams, the perpetrator sends emails that entice the recipient to click on a link or open an attachment to access a special offer. Instead, the victim is tricked into surrendering personal information, such as their social security number, bank account or credit card information.

9. Being duped by actual loved ones and friends. In some cases, unscrupulous family members and caretakers can even be the perpetrators of senior fraud. They may deplete the funds the victim has in joint-owned bank accounts, use power of attorney to gain control of the victim’s finances, steal the victim’s ATM cards and checks, or threaten to withhold critical medical care unless the victim meets their financial demands.

Being aware of these popular scams is the first step in protecting yourself or a loved one, but sometimes they can be tricky to spot. Luckily there are a few specific red flags to watch out for, which can be very helpful in identifying these types of scams:
  • Is it unsolicited? Any time you’re contacted out of the blue, you should be skeptical. Whether it’s a handyman showing up at your doorstep when you haven’t requested any services, or a letter in the mail claiming you’ve won something when you haven’t entered any contests, you should be wary.
  • Is there an air of urgency? If the person communicating with you is pressuring you to act quickly, you should be suspicious. Whether they’re warning you that it’s a “limited time offer”, or claiming there’s no time for you to ask someone else for advice, chances are they’re trying to force you into making an irrational decision.
  • Does it seem too good to be true? We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees. If you’re being tempted with an offer that seems too good to be true, chances are that it is. Whether you’re offered a lucrative “work-from-home” job, told you’ve inherited a huge sum of money, or promised large returns from an investment, you should ask yourself, “Does this sound legitimate?”

If you suspect you’ve already fallen victim to one of these scams, or if you think a friend or loved one may have been victimized, you should take action as soon as possible. To start, you should report the matter to your local police department. You should also contact your financial institutions so they can monitor your accounts for potential fraudulent activity. You can also obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area by calling the Eldercare Locator, a federal government-sponsored national resource line, at 1-800-677-1116.