Scams are not always of the obvious "too good to be true" variety. A talented scammer can make offers or request sensitive information in ways that actually sound reasonable. People of any age can be tricked, but senors and the elderly must be particularly vigilant.
Why are seniors the favorite targets?
For one, they are likely to have a nest egg. Today's generations of senior were often raised to be polite and note rude (con artists love this). Widows whose husbands handled all the finances are highly prized by scammers.
Fraudsters want two things
They're after your money and personal information. So, apply two basic strategies whenever and however you're approached.
- Don't get caught up in "the wind up" of any offers, sales pitches or deals. Focus instead on the bottom line. Ask: "What does this offer or person want from me?" Money or personal information should raise red flags.
- To protect your personal information, simply do not reveal it. Thieves can use basic information such as your social security number to pose as you for their own financial gain or steal your credit card number to make purchases in your name.
While the list is by no means exhaustive, these types of fraud, and their variations, all too often target seniors. Scammers choose relevant products or services: investments, vacations, health, and "anti-aging" products, reverse mortgages, medications, medicare drug discount cards, funeral/cemetery products and health insurance products are all on the list.
The numerous scams include "surveys," discount offers and membership clubs. The caller (a real person or a recorded voice) often asks for a small upfront payment or "deposit" via credit card or asks for other sensitive information to process the offer.
E-mail and other online scams
"Phishing" is one of the most common scams. Typically, a con artist sends an email that appears to be from a legitimate company, such as a bank, alerting you to a problem and asks you to "verify" information such as your bank account number.
In addition, criminals may send attachments (separate files) that are malicious programs that comprise your computer is opened.
Websites that require any sort of payment before receiving a "free" product or admission to a lucrative opportunity are most likely fraudulent.
Direct Mail Scams
Offers directed to seniors include free/ discounted products, anti-aging products, lotteries, travel deals and more. The offers can be worthless, complete fraud, or obligate you to pre-payments. For example, if you have "won the lottery," you may be required to "pay taxes" before you can claim your prize.
Promise of unusually high rates or return are suspect. Scammers may use cold calls or even use your network of friends to gain confidence.
Seniors are frequent targets of Medicare schemes involving medical equipment manufacturers who offer free products in exchange for Medicare numbers. Scammers can fake the required doctors signatures on forms certifying that equipment or testing is needed, then bill Medicare fraudulently. IN this case, seniors are unwitting accomplices in fraud- and usually receive no products.
Tips For Staying Safe
- Get Direct Deposit: Social Security and other checks in your mailbox can easily be stolen. With secure direct deposit into your bank account, there are no checks to steal.
- Protect Your Medicare Number: Only give your insurance information/ Medicare number to those who have provided you with actual medical services. Also, avoid "free" medical service or equipment offers that require your number.