In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared August 21 to be National Senior Citizens Day, the day to recognize contributions senior citizens make to the country. According to the Administration of Aging, by the year 2030 the population of people 65 years and older are expected to grow 19 percent, which is about 72.1 million. But unfortunately, as this demographic continues to grow, so do the scams against them.
According to the most recent Elder Fraud Survey by Investor Protection Trust, one in five seniors have been victimized by a financial fraud. Senior citizens are fraud targets for a variety of reasons. Typically, they are likely to have excellent credit and own their home. They are unlikely to report a fraud because they are often unaware they’ve been scammed or are ashamed they’ve been defrauded.
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona and the FBI want each senior citizen to be aware of scams/fraud schemes that could be pursuing them. Common scams that specifically target senior citizens are:
- Health Care/Insurance Fraud: Scammers may pose as a Medicare representative to get seniors to give them their personal or financial information. They’ve been known to provide bogus services for elderly people by creating makeshift mobile clinics, then using the personal information provided to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
- Door to Door Sales/Repairs: Scammers will often go door-to-door offering repair services or equipment sales. Products purchased may never be delivered, repairs may never be done or refunds won’t be received.
- Funeral/Cemetery Fraud: Scammers will attend the funeral service of a stranger to take advantage of the widower or other family member, claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them. They will aggressively demand payment to settle fake debts.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Consumers can now refill prescriptions online, but an unauthorized site with the best price may send ineffective or harmful drugs.
- Telemarketing Fraud: Telemarketing scams often involve calls and email offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins or health care products. Once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name and personal information is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets.
- Fraudulent “Anti-Aging” Products: Scammer-distributors will suggest bogus homeopathic remedies that do nothing or will use renegade labs to create versions of products which can have health consequences.
- Internet Fraud: Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into downloading a fake program. In some cases a virus will be downloaded allowing scammers to steal personal and financial information.
- Grandparent Scheme: Scammers will place a call to a senior posing as their grandchild or a relative in need of help or trapped in a foreign country. They will usually ask for cash to solve the problem and ask for payment through a money wiring service.
- Investment Schemes: Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings, investment schemes have been a successful way for scammers to take advantage of them. From pyramid schemes to real estate investments, a number of schemes have targeted seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years.
- Reverse Mortgage Scams: Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many seniors own their homes and will send fraudulent letters on behalf of the county’s assessor’s office offering the homeowner to arrange a reassessment of their property for a fee.
Overall tips to avoid the most common scams:
- Start with Trust: Find a business you can trust by doing your research first through bbb.org.
- Beware of high pressure sales tactics: If someone is pressuring you to make an on-the-spot decision without allowing you to research first, be prepared to walk away from the offer.
- Be wary of unsolicited correspondence: Government agencies, credit card companies and banks will never ask for personal information through email or over the phone. If you get a call asking for personal or financial information, offer to call the person back so you can research the information they provide to you.
- Use secure payment methods: Never send money by wire transfer to someone you don’t know. Use a credit card for additional protection.
- Safeguard your personal information: Avoid sharing your social security number, bank account information, birth date or address to someone you don’t know or trust.
- Report fraud: If you think you may have fallen victim to a fraud, contact the BBB online or over the phone. File a complaint with the Attorney General or report it to your local FBI office.