Seniors Are Often Targets of Scams
Anyone can fall victim to a financial scam, butseniors tend to be particularly popular targets.Frequently, fraud perpetrated against seniors isnot reported until long after the scam hasoccurred, usually because victims don't realizethey have been scammed or know where toreport the scam, or because victims are tooembarrassed to admit that they have beentaken. Nevertheless, it's important for seniorsand their family members to be aware of thesigns that may point to a fraudulent scheme,and know what steps can be taken to preventbecoming victims of a scam.
Seniors are a popular target for scammers for anumber of reasons:•Seniors are more likely to own their ownhomes, have a nest egg that's liquid andeasily accessible, and have excellent credit.•Today's generation of seniors were raised tobe kind, helpful, trusting, and polite--perfectqualities for a scammer to exploit, knowingthat it's hard for some seniors to simply say"no."•Age has a tendency to affect memory, andscammers count on seniors not being able toremember important details when reporting ascam to the authorities.
What to look for
Scams targeting seniors often occur in one ofthree ways--through the Internet, on thetelephone, or in person. And just when youthink you've heard of all the possible scams outthere, scammers will come up with anotherscheme intended to victimize seniors. The FBIwebsite (www.fbi.gov) has a section dedicatedto fraud targeting seniors. The site describes anumber of schemes that have been discovered.It's a good idea to check this site regularly tokeep updated on new scams. Here are some ofthe more popular scams that have victimizedseniors.
Scams related to health care
There are a number of scams that focus on thenew health-care law, health insurance forseniors, and Medicare. These scams may focuson "Obamacare" benefits, claiming that there isa "limited enrollment period," great insurancecoverage including drug benefits for a lowmonthly cost, free medical equipment, low-costdrugs, or free medical tests given atnonmedical facilities like health clubs orshopping malls. To be on the safe side, don'tsign a blank insurance claim form, since yourinsurance company may be billed for items younever received; generally don't do businessover the phone or in person with a door-to-doorsalesman for medical services or benefits; andcall your insurance carrier to be sure that whatyou're supposed to be getting "free of charge"is actually covered by your insurance.
We've all been subjected to telemarketing, andit isn't always a bad thing. Some products andservices are legitimate. However, telemarketingalso serves as a way to scam people,especially seniors. Some warning signs thatshould prompt you to decline the offer includebeing told you "must act now or the offer won'tbe good," any offer that seems to be free(except that you have to pay for shipping andhandling or administrative fees), therequirement that you provide your credit ordebit card information or bank account number,and the suggestion that you "leave a checktaped to your front door for a courier to pick up."In any case, if the caller tells you it isn'tnecessary to check out their company orconsult family members or your lawyer, it'sprobably best just to decline altogether.
Internet and e-mail scams
Seniors' use of the Internet and e-mail isincreasing daily, and so are Internet scamstargeting seniors. Many such scams are basedon getting credit or debit card information forservices or merchandise that is never delivered.If you're going to give out this informationonline, try to ensure that the site is secure andreputable. Depending on the Web browser youuse, you may see a padlock icon or some otherindication to symbolize that there's a higherlevel of security to send important personalinformation, but it's not a guarantee that the siteis secure. Also, check out the source of themerchandise or service before buying. It shouldhave a physical address and phone number(s)that actually work.In another type of Internet scam, people sendyou an e-mail claiming to be in possession oflarge sums of money and need you to helpthem open a U.S. bank account. Often, theyask that you "seed" the account with your ownmoney, and in return, they'll pay youhandsomely. Don't believe this promise anddon't respond to the e-mail.
In short, as we've all heard before, if it soundstoo good to be true, it probably is. If you fallvictim to a scam, in addition to reporting it toyour local police, you can report it to the FBIthrough their electronic tip line found atwww.fbi.gov.
Here are a few things that may help you protect an elderly relative from being victimized by a scam: •Become familiar with your loved one's finances •Recommend that they have any regular income directly deposited to their bank •Suggest that they consult you or someone else they trust before buying any service or product over the phone, online, or via the mail
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