Could you elder be subject of fraud or a scam?

I have found it interesting while researching a Blog topic not only pertinent results are produced but, facts relating to an even more urgent issue(s) were revealed.  A prime example of this came from earlier this week, when I shared information about the website Snopes.com in the article entitled:  

Could What I Have Just Heard or Read Online Actually be True?

While doing so, I came across a plethora of information on a substantial number of scams be they originating by phone, e-mail, internet, land mail, etc. which is included in the vast array of issues regarding elder issues, seniors help, elderly care and elder law.  When one types in the word “scams” on Snopes.com, it is truly staggering how many pages of fraud and scam topics come up.  I actually stopped taking note of the count when it reached over 3,600.  Sadly, many of those producing such fraud and scams are quite successful; therefore, please join me today to learn how to identify, avoid and even report that which you and your elder will inevitably run into during online activity and before donating to a cause, replying to an e-mail offering an inheritance or other forms of financial gain, etc.

Due to the prevalence of financial scams which target seniors, these are now regarded as “the crime of the 21st century.”  The reason being, elders are believed to have a substantial amount of funds maintained in their account(s).

Further reported by the National Council on Aging [NCA]:

“Financial scams also often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they’re considered a “low-risk” crime. However, they’re devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a very vulnerable position with little time to recoup their losses.

It’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse. And it’s not always strangers who perpetrate these crimes. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.”

According to the NCA, the top 10 scams targeting seniors are as follows:

1.          Medicare/health insurance fraud

Given all U.S. citizens and even permanent residents over age 65 qualify for Medicare, there is seldom a need for a scam artist to research “what private health insurance company older people have in order to scam them out of some money.”

With these sorts of scams, perpetrators might pose as a representative of Medicare to obtain personal information from elders or in order to offer spurious services such as crude mobile clinics, later billing Medicare for counterfeit services.

2.          Counterfeit prescription drugs

Due to the high cost of prescriptions, many seniors look to the internet in pursuit of better pricing.  From the 1990’s to 2000, the FDA investigations increased from five cases a year to twenty.  This type of scam is not only unhealthy for one’s wallet but medically as well.  Medication is prescribed intently for specific health issues and disorders and when purchasing medication via the internet one risks being subjected to unsafe components and ingredients..

3.          Funeral & cemetery scams

According to the FBI, there are two categories of funeral and cemetery fraud committed against elders.  The first of which involves scammers reading obituaries and calling or attending funeral services with the objective of taking advantage of a grieving widow or widower.  By asserting that the departed loved one owed monies, the scammer will attempt to defraud relatives by extorting funds for fake debts.

The second method is used by disreputable funeral homes to exploit a widow, widower or other family member’s inexperience and lack of knowledge concerning cost of funeral services by adding superfluous charges to the total of the final bill.  Most commonly, dishonest funeral directors will direct the surviving spouse or family member that the purchase an expensive casket is required even when a direct cremation is preformed and in fact a cardboard casket is more appropriate.

4.          Fraudulent anti-aging products

Given the media’s constant bombardment of youth and beauty imagery plus, the number of stories about such services as Botox and plastic surgery to maintain one’s appearance it is no wonder that elders are feeling increasing pressure to artificially prolong their youthful exterior.

Seniors seeking such treatments, medication or even homeopathic remedies automatically put themselves at risk for becoming a victim of scammers.  As stated by the National Council on Aging [NCA], Botox scams are particularly unsettling, as renegade labs creating versions of the real thing may still be working with the root ingredient, botulism neurotoxin, which is one of the most toxic substances known to science.  A bad batch can have health consequences far beyond wrinkles or drooping neck muscles.”

5.          Telemarketing

Fraudulent telemarketing calls are among the most common of scams directed at the seniors.  Given elders make twice the number of purchases over the phone than the national average, they are easy prey for scammers.  As noted by the National Council on Aging [NCA], With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are incredibly hard to trace. Also, once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets, sometimes defrauding the same person repeatedly.”  In addition, NCA tells of three other scams:

“The pigeon drop

The con artist tells the individual that he/she has found a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds from his/her bank account. Often, a second con artist is involved, posing as a lawyer, banker, or some other trustworthy stranger.

The fake accident ploy

The con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs the money.

Charity scams

Money is solicited for fake charities. This often occurs after natural disasters."

6.          Internet fraud

Although, as we have discussed in previous Blogs, having the capability of using a computer and utilizing the internet can be a great asset.  However, given that most seniors are not well versed in computer technology, such can make an elder an easy target for internet scams omnipresent on the World Wide Web and through e-mail programs.  Those who are experienced at using the internet are all too aware of the annoying number of pop-up browser windows and how they can either simulate virus-scanning software which can easily fool elders into downloading a bogus anti-virus or malware program at considerable cost or an actual virus that exposes a senior’s private information to computer scammers.  To help protect your elder, I would recommend assisting them in setting up firewalls and down-loading the most up-to-date anti-virus protection program(s).  The NCA offers one example of e-mail and such phishing scams:

Email/phishing scams

“A senior receives email messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. A senior receives emails that appear to be from the IRS about a tax refund.”

7.          Investment schemes

During my spouse’s illnesses, one of the most invaluable services he arranged ahead of time for me was that of a Financial Planner.  Unfortunately, many seniors wait until they are no longer working to closely manage and plan their savings for retirement.  However, a little effort while one is still employed, makes for a far easier and more comfortable retirement.  Those who have not set up such arrangements and wait to safeguard their cash and savings are subject to numerous investment schemes targeted at seniors.  These can range from pyramid schemes such as Bernie Madoff’s which included a copious number of elders amongst his victims, to African citizens or a Nigerian prince seeking a partner with whom they purportedly are looking to claim inheritance to more complex monetarist products that even many economists do not understand.  Such financial schemes have been a successful avenue used to take advantage of seniors for many years.

8.          Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams

As many elders own their homes, with no mortgage left to pay, this is a significant asset that increases exponentially in prospective dollar value of a particular scam.

One example provided by the National Council on Aging is a particularly elaborate property tax scam in San Diego saw fraudsters sending personalized letters to different properties apparently on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office. The letter, made to look official but displaying only public information, would identify the property’s assessed value and offer the homeowner, for a fee of course, to arrange for a reassessment of the property’s value and therefore the tax burden associated with it.”

Another similar example is the reverse mortgage scam which has proliferated in the past few years.  As NCA states, “with legitimate reverse mortgages increasing in frequency more than 1,300% between 1999 and 2008, scammers are taking advantage of this new popularity. As opposed to official refinancing schemes; however, unsecured reverse mortgages can lead property owners to lose their homes when the perpetrators offer money or a free house somewhere else in exchange for the title to the property.”

9.          Sweepstakes & lottery scams

Such familiar scams are ones most are familiar with and exploits the idea that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  Through these, scammers advise their intended victim they have won a sweepstakes or lottery; however, a fee or some sort of payment is required to release the potential prize.  All too often, adding more insult to injury, the elder victim will receive a check which they are to deposit to their banking account.  Naturally, though it shows as being deposited, it takes days or more for the check to be identified as fake.  Meanwhile, the perpetrator collects the supposed fees or taxes on the prize and pocket the funds prior to the check bouncing.

10.       The grandparent scam

As the grandparent scam targets the unsuspecting senior’s emotions, it is perhaps the most simple and deceitful of scams perpetrated on elders.  The scammer will call their intended victim and say something to the effect of, “Hello Grandpa, do you recognize my voice?”  The perpetrator can, without an ounce of energy in researching the victim’s background, establish their fake identity when the unwary grandparent speculates the name of their grandchild who sounds familiar to the voice on the phone.  Once contact is established, the counterfeit grandchild then likely requests funds to assist with an unforeseen financial problem.  The scammer will also request that the monies be sent via MoneyGram or Western Union as these companies do not always require proof of identification.  To ensure their scam is successful, the caller will plead with the grandparent not to tell their parents for fear of reprisal.

 

Though other scams typically result in a larger score, the fact that the scammer does not have to invest time and research allows him or her to repeat the scam over and again at very little expense.

For additional information, please visit:  https://www.ncoa.org/economic-security/money-management/scams-security/top-10-scams-targeting-seniors/

Please always remember that those who are intent on scamming elders utilize e-mail, online ads, pop-ups and search results to fool seniors into sending money and personal information.  One way to beat them at their own game is to utilize one’s e-mail spam filter to screen incoming e-mail messages.  Next, you or your elder should immediately forward suspicious e-emails to:  Spam@uce.gov

Another important point to always remember is that no reputable, legitimate company will ever ask for one’s personal password or account number via e-mail.  According to the U.S. government, the following actions should be taken immediately in response to all such e-mails:

  • “Don't click on any links in the e-mail. They can contain a virus that can harm your computer. Even if links in the e-mail say the name of the company, don't trust them. They may redirect to a fraudulent website.
  • Don't reply to the e-mail itself. Instead forward the e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.
  • If you believe that the e-mail is valid, contact the company using the phone numbers, listed on your statements or in the phone book. Tell the customer service representative about the e-mail and ask if your account has been compromised. You can also contact the company online by typing the company's web address directly into the address bar; never use the links provide[d] in the e-mail.
  • If you clicked on any links in the phishing e-mail or replied with the requested personal information, contact your bank directly to let them know and ask to have fraud alerts placed on your accounts, have new credit cards issued, [and] set new passwords.”

https://www.usa.gov/online-safety