Scams Targeting Seniors

The task of caring for mom and dad is filled with love, patience and a one-two punch of déjà vu. Remember them giving you the all-important stranger danger talk? Now it’s your turn, as these conversations give your parents the best defense against scams and financial abuse.

Know the Scams Targeting Seniors

The Grandparent Scam
A scammer calls their victim pretending to be a family member, typically their grandchild, in distress and in need of money. They say there is an emergency or legal issue — perhaps claiming it has occurred while they’re traveling abroad — employing any high-pressure tactics necessary to get their victim to wire them funds. Scammers do their homework before carrying out this scam, often gaining family information via social media. Numerous seniors have lost their entire savings to this scam.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
In this scheme, scammers inform their target that they have won the lottery so they need to provide a payment or sensitive information (i.e. Social Security number, bank account information) to unlock the supposed prize. They then use this information to commit fraud or identity theft.

Telemarketing Scams
Most scams targeting seniors use the phone to contact their targets. Scammers claim to have a limited-time offer, a charity in need, or an investment of a lifetime and encourage the senior to take part. The phone provides some anonymity to the scammer, giving them a leg up in evading detection.

Healthcare Scams
In 2014, the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimated $60 billion was lost to Medicare fraud annually — but that’s not the only place fraudsters hit the medical sector. Unethical medical providers, health clubs and retirement homes target seniors directly or use them as pawns in larger schemes. Direct scams include unnecessary tests or false billing for medical procedures; indirect schemes include Medicare and medical equipment fraud where fake invoices are sent to insurance providers.

Sweetheart Scams
Online dating has become a popular way to meet people at any age. But while it makes dating easier, seniors are quickly learning that some suitors are interested in stealing more than just their heart. Criminals, especially those outside the U.S., use online dating sites to meet seniors and begin a whirlwind romance in hopes of later hitting them up for money. Remind your parents to take things slow, withhold personal information and never send money to someone they haven’t met in person.

Reverse Mortgage Scams
Homeowners faced with tough financial times or a potential foreclosure may be interested in a reverse mortgage — a favored front for criminals. In a reverse mortgage scam, the con artist will convince their victim to obtain a reverse mortgage in order to save an at-risk property. This ploy tricks them into signing over the deed to their home or partaking in a bad deal that boasts abysmal returns.

10 Steps You Should Take to Protect Your Parents

  1. Include common scams in your next family talk
  2. Place your parents on the Do Not Call List
  3. Minimize their junk mail at DMAChoice.org
  4. Have the whole family lock down social media accounts [Social Media Privacy Guide]
  5. Share the “never” rules with them:
    • Never provide personal, financial or medical information over the phone
    • Never respond to urgent requests from the IRS or police via phone — they would never call you
    • Never answer the door for a stranger
    • Never wire money without knowing the recipient personally
    • Never share your Medicare information with anyone
  6. Review their accounts regularly (including financial accounts, subscriptions and medical benefits statements)
  7. Conduct thorough background checks of outside caretakers
  8. Pull their free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com
  9. Consider enrolling them in identity theft protection services
  10. Consider placing a credit freeze on their account

Have your parents ever been victimized by one of these scams targeting seniors? Share your story in the comments below.