Fraud against senior citizens is a serious problem that affects millions of seniors. The elderly are not only more susceptible, but many scammers intentionally target senior citizens. One such scam, for example, has been named the “Grandparent Scam”. The fraudsters claim that the victim’s grandchild needs help or even pretend to be the grandchild in trouble. They convince the senior citizen that their grandchild is stranded in foreign country, in jail, or cannot pay for an emergency hospital visit. The senior is then instructed to wire money. One of the top scams from 2016 was criminals impersonating the IRS demanding they pay past-due taxes immediately. Perpetrators pose as Medicare representatives, sell counterfeit prescription drugs, and even go as far as search the obituaries to scam grieving spouses by attempting to settle fake debts. Scammers are very convincing and will harass the victim repeatedly until they have drained them financially.
What can you do to keep yourself or senior loved one safe? How do you know who to trust and who not to? Here are 10 tips to help you discern.
- Learn to spot the imposters. Scammers will email or call you posing as a company you trust and ask you to verify, update, or give information about your account. Don’t give out information to anyone who initiates the call or email. Call the company when in doubt.
- If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Be cautious of buying miracle products, entering unfamiliar sweepstakes, receiving free gifts, donating to unknown charities, and claiming prizes from a lottery that you did not enter.
- Don’t buy from a solicitor coming to your door. The National Council of Aging recommends you say this instead, “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls me or visits unannounced. Send me something in writing.”
- Don’t make an advanced payment in return for something promised. Scammers love to take your money upfront, and then not deliver on what they promised. They want paid in advance to fix something around your house or claim you will get a prize after you pay a handling fee. They set you up so they can run away with your payment.
- A legitimate company will not pressure you to make a decision to buy or rush you to act immediately. That is a big red flag.
- Don’t accept a check from a stranger. It takes weeks for bad check to be discovered, and then you are responsible for repaying the bank. One popular scam asks seniors to deposit a check into their account and then wire money to a foreign country.
- Do your part to keep your information secure. Change passwords frequently, shred mail, use directly deposit to limit checks coming in the mail, monitor your accounts frequently, check your credit report yearly, do research on companies, and don’t trust public Wi-Fi networks.
- The National Adult Protective Services Association estimates that only 1 in 44 fraud victims will report the incident. It is important to look for warning signs that your senior loved one is being taken advantage of and to share your experience so others can learn from it.
- Limit telemarker calls by adding your number to the “Do not Call Registry” donotcall.gov
- Be informed about the latest scams. You can sign up for scam alerts through AARP’s Fraud Watch Network http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/
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