NCOA reports that seniors are robbed of about $3 billion annually as the result of financial scams. Seniors are popular targets because they are polite and tend to be trusting. Other reasons scammer view baby boomers as favorable victims is because they also typically have good credit and substantial savings they’ve built up over a lifetime.
Half of the battle for baby boomers is identifying likely scams and protecting themselves from them. That’s why being educated about how bad guys might try to steal your money is a good first step to protecting yourself and your loved ones.
Popular Financial Scams Aimed at Seniors
1. Email and Text Message Fraud
Beware of the email or text message that requests personal information. This common type of fraud targets seniors by posing as a credible sounding bank, store or credit card company that you might know and trust. They will probably say they need to verify your account or something equally innocuous-sounding. If you provide them with the information they can use it in crimes including identity theft.
2. Medicare Scams
The reason Medicare scams are so popular is that every U.S. citizen over the age of 65 is a possible victim since they are eligible for Medicare benefits. That information makes the scammer’s job a lot easier since the con artist doesn’t have to guess or identify the insurance company a senior has in order to tap into the money source.
Typical scams related to Medicare involve a person who impersonates a Medicare representative for the purpose of obtaining a senior’s personal information. Identity theft is rampant.
Another common Medicare scam scenario provides bogus services to seniors and then charges Medicare to be paid. Many of these scammers administer services out of inexpensive mobile clinics. These scams are very believable since the fraudsters tend to appeal to seniors by leveraging the latest trend information as a way to appear credible and relevant.
3. Phone Scams
Robocalls offer the perfect tool for scammers to contact thousands of households globally for the purpose of cheating unsuspecting seniors. A few of the more popular schemes used relate to expired warranty claims for cars or electronics.
Another devious robocall designed to steal your money is one that asks the victim “Can you hear me?” When the senior answers “Yes,” their voice is recorded and used as a voice signature to authorize fraudulent charges in the future on stolen credit cards.
4. Government Imposters
Few things are more frightening than an unsuspecting call from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Medicare, or the Social Security administration with threats of arrest or being deported if a certain amount of money is not paid immediately. They may also say that you are about to lose your Social Security benefits. These scammers rely on official-looking phone numbers that are often used to build credibility.
5. Financial Abuse by Family Members, Caregivers, Friends, and via Power of Attorney
Sadly, it is quite common for seniors to be exploited by the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. What happens so often is that these trusted schemers try to immorally gain control of a senior’s assets, credit and money. It is not uncommon for abusers to withhold necessary care so they can continue to retain financial control.
6. Computer Support Fraud
Baby boomers and older seniors are prime targets for this type of technical support scam that takes advantage of the older generation’s lack of computer expertise.
The way this scam works is via a pop-up alert claiming that a computer or phone needs to be fixed. Seniors that respond to the scammers with a call often allow the fraudster to access their computer remotely, charging a fee.
7. Romance Fraud
Online dating sites have encouraged romance fraudsters, making it easy to identify which lonely seniors are looking for love. What happens in many cases is that presumably long-distance suitors say they need money to come visit. They claim they need visas, travel expenses and money for medical emergencies. There is so much money at stake, that it is common for these scammers to prolong the scam for as long as possible to bilk as much money as possible from smitten victims seeking love in all the wrong places.
8. The Grandparent Ruse
This scam exploits loving grandparents who would do anything for their grandchildren to keep them safe. The way this scam works is that a scammer calls and says something like “Hi Grandma, guess who this is?” When the grandmother guesses, the scammer goes with that identity.
Then, the fraudster who is pretending to be the grandchild asks for money to solve a problem they are having. It might be something as important as paying rent, or taking care of a car repair. In some scenarios, the scammer asks for jail bond money. Then to cover their tracks, the fraudster typically begs the grandparent not to tell anyone claiming to be ashamed or not wanting to get in trouble with their parents.
9. Charity Fraud
By leveraging current events and natural disasters, many con men siphon money out of seniors’ bank accounts by fraudulently claiming it is for a good cause. These criminals often look legitimate using crowdfunding sites or professionally designed fundraising pages that seem to legitimize their efforts.
Some red flags that boomers should be on the alert for relate to payment methods. For example, when anyone insists on payment via a money transfer or gift cards, then that charity is probably not authentic.
10. Lottery Scams
In this scam scenario, seniors are notified that they won the lottery. They are sent a check which they deposit. The criminals understand that the check will not be rejected by the bank immediately. This time period before the check is rejected provides the fraudsters the necessary time to charge the senior with fees or taxes levied against the prize money. Because the charges are a small fraction of the amount the “lottery winner” won, seniors are often very happy to pay the smaller fees.
What You Should Do If You Suspect You Were Targeted by a Scammer
As embarrassed as you might be about falling prey to a scam, it is important that seniors talk about what has happened to them in the event they are scammed. The worst possible thing to do is to ignore the incident. It is better for victims to discuss the incident if money has been fraudulently taken under false pretenses. Consider calling the police or Adult Protective Services. If you need a valid phone number, call 1-800-677-1116 for Adult Protective Services.
Safe Practices that Prevent Scams
1. Hire professionals to manage your finances.
It is far too easy to overpay a bill or to be tricked into paying for something that you don’t need or never agreed to purchase. Our email inboxes and mailboxes are often filled with enticing offers that may not be legitimate. That’s why it makes sense to hire professional bill managers and other trusted experts to avoid being scammed by financial predators.
2. Follow the advice below to prevent health insurance fraud.
Certain activities put seniors at higher risk of becoming financial victims. Health insurance fraud is a significant problem that can be prevented by deliberate reviews of all related paperwork.
- Don’t sign blank insurance claim forms that can be completed later with inaccurate data.
- Never agree to pay for medical services rendered without first reviewing all the associated costs.
- Carefully review the benefits statement provided by your insurer.
- Always ask questions when you are unclear about the insurance coverage offered.
- Refuse to enter into a business agreement with a salesperson offering free medical equipment.
- Provide insurance information to authorized personnel only.
- Write down and save all appointment records.
- Verify all details pertaining to equipment orders by physicians
3. Guard your Medicare card information to prevent scams
- Safeguard your Medicare number and only give it out to authorized health care workers when necessary.
- Do not provide your Medicare information to salespeople promising to be paid by Medicare without checking them out first to be sure they are legitimate.
- Review all Medicare Summary Notices to be sure you haven’t been billed for services you never received.
- Report suspicious behavior to Medicare Authorities at 1-800-MEDICARE
4. Proceed with extreme caution when considering a purchase over the phone to avoid telemarketing scams.
- Don’t buy from unknown or unfamiliar companies.
- Review company history data on Better Business Bureau and Google.
- Demand written materials to review before buying anything or making a donation.
- Write down the salesperson’s name, the business name, address, business license number and mailing address before making a telephone purchase.
- Always take your time before buying over the phone.
- If you suspect fraud, report it to enforcement agencies.
5. Take preventative steps.
Almost everyone knows somebody who has been cheated out of money – sometimes a lot of money. Be sure to take these steps to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
- Shop around before making a purchase.
- Get help and advice from trusted friends before making a commitment or signing paperwork.
- Carefully review all agreements and contracts prior to signing them.
- Be sure that all important details about the transaction are in writing.
- Verify the contract cancellation and refund requirements before signing any contract.
- Do not let anyone try and pressure you into signing an agreement before you have time to carefully review all the paperwork.
You don’t have to be a victim of financial exploitation. It is recommended that baby boomers take advantage or professional help to prevent these types of problems that can happen to anyone who is unprepared. Rely on professional bill managers like SilverBills to manage your personal finances. Prevention is always the best approach to safeguarding your financial health.