Sadly, I bet most of us in our age bracket know of a friend or relative who has fallen victim to some kind of scam. Whether it was a sweepstakes offer that arrived in the mail, a phone call from someone posing as a dear grandchild in need, or a phony email, scams are a multi-million dollar illegal industry.
What’s the first thing you can do to protect yourself from fallen victim to a scam? The National Council on Aging has produced the following list of the ten most common scams that target Seniors. (See below.) While understanding the particulars of each approach would be the best possible education, it isn’t practical here. No matter. If you receive anything in the mail, by phone, or on your computer that could even remotely fall into one of these categories, you’ll know it’s time stop and check things out.
Ten Most Common Scams
1. HealthCare/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud
2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
3. Funeral and Cemetery Scams
4. Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products
6. Internet Fraud
7. Investment Schemes
8. Homeowner/reverse Mortgage Schemes
9. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
10. The “Grandparent” Scam
Consider making a couple of copies of this list to keep by your telephone, incoming mail, and computer.
Let’s talk about what you can do if faced with these scams.
1. HealthCare/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud: Never give out any personal information over the phone and always remember that legitimate representatives would never ask you to do so.
2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Always work with your physician or other reputable professional for any prescriptions or medical equipment. If an offer comes to you via the mail or email, always run it by these professionals first.
3. Funeral and Cemetery Scams: Pre-plan if all possible. If not, then have someone with you who is is able to help you make these difficult decisions at this very difficult time.
4. Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products: These offers are endless. Check with your health professional, pharmacist, or a respected provider before you spend a dime.
5. Telemarketers: Invest in Caller ID so you don’t even have to pick up the phone unless you recognize the number of the caller. Put your name on the Do-Not-Call Registry. If the caller is persistent, hang up the phone. You DO NOT have to be polite!
6. Internet Fraud: These scams are rampant. If it is too good to be true, it is! Always ask for and wait to receive written material regarding the particular offer. If they say they can’t do this, you know you are probably dealing with a scam.
7. Investment Schemes: Always discuss investments that are offered by telephone, mail, and the Internet with a trusted financial advisor or family member. Remember, “haste makes waste!”
8. Homeowner/reverse Mortgage Schemes: Again, your first step is to gather up all of the information and then discuss it with someone you trust.
9. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Quite simply? Don’t believe the hype! Many of them don’t even exist. (If you do want to enter a few legitimate contests, then do your homework, budget what you are willing to “gamble” on these contests, and enter only after you have had that all important discussion with someone you trust.)
10. The “Grandparent” Scam: It goes something like this. You pick up the phone and on the other end is a con artists posing as a grandchild in crisis. He/she is in need of immediate cash. They are desperate, often crying, etc. The call will always include something like, “promise me you won’t call Mom. She’ll be so mad at me.” Or the con artist may pretend to be a police officer, telling you your grandchild needs money to get bailed out of jail. The approaches are endless and convincing. (In 2012, the AARP reported that more than 25,000 older Americans reported sending $110 million to scammers posing as family members in trouble!) No matter how convincing the caller may be, no matter how down-to-your-toes correct you think you are, always check with a family member to find out if this person is actually in need. Better yet, talk to your family members about this scam now, before it ever happens. Create a code word that only family members will know and say if there is an emergency.
Finally, a neighbor called and shared that she has been targeted by scammers since her husband died last June. Sadly, con artists read the obituaries and then circle in on the surviving spouse. The lesson here? Be extra cautious of people approaching you while you are in your most vulnerable state.
With a little education and diligence, you will be able to avoid getting caught up in any of these fraudulent schemes.
For more information, go to: www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/