Disreputable uses of the phone seem to have been around since the day after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. When Bart Simpson calls Moe’s Bar to ask for Mr. I.P. Freely, it’s funny to everyone except Moe. But when scammers call seniors with ever-more elaborate scams, it’s not just the financial burden of more than $36 billion dollars a year in fraud and extortion at stake. Just as serious is the emotional toll of harassment, threats, and shame of falling for a con artist’s blarney. Seniors, who were involved in 26% of the FTC’s 2012 complaints, and their families all need to know what tricks scammers are trying to pull, because forewarned is forearmed.
Why are seniors such desirable targets for phone scammers? People over 50 control 70% of the country’s wealth, so the smart scammer is just going where the money is. Crooks also appreciate include the predictability with which seniors receive their income, i.e. a pension check on the same day every month; the likelihood that a recent widow is handling her own finances without confidence; or a parent’s reluctance to admit making a costly mistake. Modern technology is another weakness: so many financial transactions are conducted online, but no one really understands how it all works.
According to the National Council On Aging, the top ten scams that target seniors are:
1. False use of Medicare or private health Insurance
2. Counterfeit prescription drugs (sold online)
3. Funeral and cemetery scams:
a. Version 1: corrupt funeral home pads the billl
b. Version 2: scammer claims the deceased owed him money, using information from the obituary
4. Fake anti-aging products, with useless or toxic ingredients
5. Telemarketing to seniors:
a. fake charities after a disaster
b. fake accidents befalling children, grandchildren or relatives who need money wired to the hospital
c.the fake lottery, sweepstakes or prize win (the ‘pigeon drop’): the ‘small’ sum that gets a much larger sum
6. Online scams: the list is endless. Here are some basics:
a. Don’t download free software
b. Don’t give out your credit card information into a pop-up form
c. There is no Nigerian prince
d. Don’t click on pop-up ads
e. Don’t click on any link in a spam email, ever
7. Homeowner / reverse mortgage scams: an unsecured reverse mortgage in exchange for a deed or lump sum
8. Investment schemes: a la Bernie Madoff. If something appears too good to be true, it is
Anyone can fall victim to one of these scams, not just seniors. Seniors simply have the assets, the landlines, and the lifestyle that make them the successful targets of these types of scams more than any other demographic. Remember, forewarned is forearmed!
Article provided by Casa Companion Homecare Solutions, a San Diego home care aide agency that provides extraordinary care and service in the comfort of home. Casa Companion Homecare Solutions home care aides support client independence so families and caregivers can focus on what’s important – one another. Find Casa at www.casacompanionhomecare.com.