How To Avoid Common Senior Scams
According to the National Council on Aging, scams targeting seniors continue to multiply — in part because criminals believe retired individuals have significant nest eggs.
In addition, seniors may hesitate to report financial cons. And when such scams are reported, authorities may have a difficult time prosecuting. But scams can quickly wipe out a hard-earned retirement savings, leaving seniors vulnerable without much time to make up for financial losses.
To help you protect yourself and your loved ones, we’ve put together a list of some of the most-common financial scams targeting seniors. Knowing how to spot a scam can help keep you and your savings safe.
Medicare and Health Services
Anyone age 65 and older qualifies for medical coverage under Medicare, relieving criminals of the work of learning the name of your specific insurance company. In this scam, a con artist poses as a representative of Medicare to get you to turn over personal information. Scammers also may provide you with a fake service, then bill Medicare and keep the proceeds.
Lotteries and Sweepstakes
Have you ever “won” a sweepstakes or lottery you didn’t enter? Beware of anyone who calls or emails to tell you that you’re a winner — the catch is that you have to pay to release your fake “winnings.” The scammer may send you a check that later bounces, saddling you with bank fees along with the loss of your money.
If you’re like most grandparents, you’d do anything for your grandchildren. So when a scammer calls late at night claiming to be your grandchild and asking for help, you might be so rattled that you’d gladly wire money. If you get such a call, place a quick call to your grandchild or her parents to check in.
Cemetery and Funeral Scams
Criminals are nothing if not crass. In this case, scammers check obituaries and may even attend a funeral service to take advantage of a widower or widow. The scammer may claim that the deceased person owed a debt and try to get the grieving spouse to pay up.
Email is the source of many different types of scams, so be aware when you log on. A common scam is an email from someone claiming to be a wealthy foreigner who is happy to give you a portion of their fortune if you’ll help. Of course, “helping” involves sending payments, and you’ll never receive the fortune you’re promised.
Another common email scam is “phishing,” in which you receive a legitimate-looking email from a bank or other institution where you do business. The problem is that the email directs you to a fake website. Even if the site looks real, use caution, and don’t type in your private info. Call your bank, or go directly to their home page to confirm.
How to Protect Yourself
The FBI notes that scams often target seniors, who grew up in an era when the norm was being polite and trusting. Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from these flimflams, and if you are a victim, contact the authorities immediately.