In the United States, senior citizens are scammed out of $2.6 billion every year. Today’s seniors are often mentally sharper than seniors in the past but they are prime targets because they usually have savings, often live alone and in some cases have some dementia. And for a smooth talking scammer, even someone who has no dementia can become convinced during the conversation and fall for the scammer’s sales pitch.
In doing my research for this article I got online and “Googled” senior scams. I looked at four different sources and checked the scams they had listed. The seven I will discuss were mentioned by at least three of the four sources. So here goes, in no particular order:
- Medicare ID, Medicaid ID and Insurance Fraud – this scam has several different motivations but requires the same information. Usually someone will call and say they are from your insurance or Medicare and they need to send you a new card but need personal information so it can be sent. Your Medicare and Medicaid number is needed to file fraudulent claims so the scammer can receive money from the government. This does not steal money from the senior, but if the senior is compliant in the scheme they could be in legal trouble with the government. The motivation can also be identity theft and any personal information you give aids in the theft of your identity. Always be suspicious of anyone calling who asks for personal information. Only give your insurance or Medicare information to someone who has provided you with medical services.
- Investment Schemes – We have all heard of various investment scams: Ponzi schemes, fake financial advisors, deals that promise large returns, the famous or infamous Nigerian letter pleading for help to get money out of their country, etc. The bottom line is, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Don’t rely on “new” friends or acquaintances to help you invest your money. Ask trusted friends and advisors or check with them when you hear something that sounds too good to be true. As Darrel Royal once said, “Dance with the one who brung you.”
- Telemarketing Fraud – Telemarketers are very good at using high pressure sales tactics to get you to buy things you didn’t know you needed. They will always have some kind of deal (this is only good for today) or product that you just have to have. Never give personal or financial information out over the phone. If you are feeling pressured, hang up! Register your phone on the two no call lists: 1-866-9-NOCALL and 1-888-382-1222 for future protection.
- Funeral and Cremation Scams – The best advice here is to plan in advance and understand what is necessary and what is not. Upselling is the most common problem where you buy more than is necessary. If cremation is your choice, you do not need to be embalmed nor need a normal size casket. Those are common mistakes and upcharges made in funeral arrangements when you or your loved one is grieving and do not understand what is being said. The funeral home must give you a list of basic fees and add-on fees. It is up to you to educate yourself about what is necessary and what is not. You need to be an educated consumer. If you are making prepaid burial plans, be sure you are working with a reputable funeral home. There again, if you are feeling pressured to make a purchase or decision trust your instinct. You can always leave and come back later with a trusted friend when you are more comfortable with all of the information you have been given.
- Home Repairs – Have you ever had someone come to your door and offer to trim trees, do yard work, replace your roof or pave your driveway because they had some mix left from another job and could make you a deal? Door to door contractors are usually transient and will be difficult to find if you have a problem with a repair. Never pay them in advance for “materials.” You will likely not see them again. Check on companies with the Better Business Bureau or work with only reputable local contractors you know.
- Grandparent Scam – This is actually a pretty widespread scam. You receive a call from a “grandchild” who is in some kind trouble, needs money and sometimes don’t want you to tell their parents. They will always need the money right now and want you to wire it to them. Money that is wired is untraceable. With Facebook and all of the other social media today, anyone can learn pertinent details about your grandchildren and can be familiar with them and even you to carry on a conversation that may make you think it is really your grandchild. Before sending any funds, make sure you know where your grandchild really is.
- Other Health Related Scams – Prescription drugs, “free” equipment, anti-aging and memory improvement products. These are all items that scammers want you to try or purchase. Watch the fine print because nothing is “free.” Cheap prescriptions may sound good but do you know what you are getting? It may not be what it says it is and can do harm instead of good. There again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you have any medical conditions that need to be addressed, consult your physician.
Article by Rodney Rueter, CEO/president of Lutheran Sunset Ministries in Clifton, Texas.by