Seniors are especially vulnerable to an increasing number of scams and fraudulent activities. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the main reason is that scam artists and unsavory people are very skilled at weaseling their way into seniors’ lives and establishing trust. Unfortunately that trust can all too quickly turn into tragedy, so it pays to learn how to defend yourself against these devious criminals.
On the phone and through the computer
Scam and fraud artists work very hard to reach their prey both on the phone and through the computer. They understand exactly how to make themselves appear legitimate so that the person on the other end is tricked into making a purchase or revealing confidential information about themselves, their bank accounts, or other financial resources.
Here are some of the most common (and damaging) fraud schemes popping up all over the country right now:
Medicare and prescription discount programs – Seniors are vulnerable to this type of scam because so many are dependent on Medicare and various prescription drugs to maintain their health. Scammers will call, knock on doors, send emails, and even falsely present themselves as government entities or official agencies.
Charities and non-profit groups – Scammers are very good at presenting themselves as fund raisers for a charity or non-profit group that does not really exist. If it does exist, then it generally gives away very little of the money raised and instead the scammers keep most of it for themselves. Seniors are typically profitable targets for this kind of fraud, especially after a natural disaster or other unfortunate event.
Lending and investments – These are some of the most sophisticated scams and also some of the most potentially damaging to seniors. Fraud artists prey on seniors by offering risky investments disguised as something safe as well as a huge variety of loans that are loaded with fees, penalties, high interest rates, and other characteristics that are designed solely to take your money.
Phishing and identity theft – Some scammers are skilled at convincing seniors they represent the person’s bank, mortgage lender, credit card company, or the like. They use automated phone calls and/or live operators to tell the senior they need to verify an account number, update their social security number, or reveal some other personal information to avoid having the account cancelled or frozen. This is really just a devious trick to get you to give up critical personal information so the scammer can use it to steal your money or steal your identity.
This is only a very short sampling of the nasty and dangerous scams that all too often focus on seniors as their victims.
Protect yourself and avoid being scammed
There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from fraud and avoid being scammed. Some of the easiest and most effective tactics include:
• Always shred junk mail, receipts, billing statements, bank statements, credit card offers, and anything else that contains personal or confidential information
• Never give out your password, account number, PIN number, or any other security codes over the phone, in an email, or on a web site that is not verified as legitimate
• If someone tries to convince you to act now or you’ll miss out on a great opportunity, say no thanks and pass on that opportunity
• If someone presents you with an offer that sounds “too good to be true” then it probably is and you should turn it down immediately
• Never invest money, take out a loan, or purchase anything expensive without first checking with someone you trust to get their opinion and insight on the subject
• If you have been scammed before, never pay anyone to help get your money back or prevent you from getting scammed again
• Never give money up front as a deposit or down payment without first checking with the Better Business Bureau or other community resources to ensure the person or business asking for it is legitimate
The bottom line when it comes to avoiding scams and fraud is to always be extra cautious and extra careful about your personal information, financial information, and money. Seniors are especially vulnerable to these kinds of attacks because they may not be aware of common fraud tactics, they may be too trusting of those who seem to be friendly, or they may simply not understand what is happening to them. Be aware, be careful, and always be on the lookout for scams, frauds, and other devious gimmicks.