According to a Senate committee report released last week, older adults lose an estimated $2.9 billion a year to financial scams. Scams, unfortunately seem to target those 65 and older, and the most common ones are telemarketing calls, door to door interaction and internet scams.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), below are the top 10 scam subjects that target older adults:
1. Medicare - Fraudsters may call acting as a Medicare representative asking for personal information such as your Medicare number, in return of a fake service. If successful, these fraudsters will "bill" Medicare for these fake services and pocket the money.
2. Fake prescription drugs - As prices rise for prescription drugs, seniors turn to the internet in hopes of finding a cheaper version of their current prescription drug. Scammers take this opportunity to set up fake websites and advertising that lure seniors to purchase these unsafe drugs.
3. Funerals - Scammers look at obituaries and may call an existing grieving family member claiming that the deceased has an outstanding debt that needs to be paid.
4. Anti-aging products - Some fraudsters will advertise false anti-aging products, similar to Botox, to seniors. These scam products may appear to be the same as Botox and could even have the same underlying ingredient (botulism neurotoxin), but if purchased and used, more harm could be done than good to both the face and wallet.
5. Telemarketing - This type of scam is the most common amongst seniors. 3 types of telemarketing scams include:
The Pigeon Drop: A fraudster calls in, posing as a lawyer or banker, and states that there is a large some of money that they want to give to the victim, just as long as they give their banking information.
The Fake Accident Ploy: The scammer calls in acting like a relative in need of help and money.
Charity Scams: Some will call in asking for a donation to a fake charity.
6. Internet - While browsin the internet, pop-ups may appear asking you to download and purchase an anti-viris software. By downloading this type of scam, it allows the scammers to access their personal information through their purchase. Another popular internet scheme is a fake email asking to “update” or “verify” their banking information.
7. Investment - Seniors are easy targets for fraudulent investment schemes. Scammers may send fake emails out getting seniors to click on an advertisement to a website or call in to talk to a fake financial advisors. These "financial advisors" explain that they can help increase your funds and may ask to grant them access to your bank accounts. If access is granted, scammers can steal money.
8. Homeowner or Mortgage Scams - Fraudsters might send out an official looking letter to an older adult that owns a home stating that their home needs to be reassessed for tax purposes. The letters usually state that for a fee (which is how they get your money), a home can be reassessed. Fraudsters might even come to your door asking for money for fake home repairs.
9. Sweepstakes or Lottery Scams - This type of scam is where a scammer will call (or sometimes even mail) a senior explaining that they’ve won the lottery or a prize, but will need to pay a fee to retrieve it. Sometimes the fraudster will send a fake check out to the victim to deposit, knowing that the bank will reject it. During that time seniors may be asked to wire transfer the fee, gaining the scammer access to their banking information.
10. The Grandparent Scam - This type of scam can tug on the heartstrings of some of the seniors who fall victim to this. Often times fraudsters will call in posing as one of their grandchildren (they get this information by asking the senior to guess who’s calling), and state that they’re in a financial bind and really need help. They’ll ask to have the grandparent send money through a WesternUnion or MoneyGram, and can sometimes continue to call to get more money.
Now that we've discussed the types of scams that target those 65 and older, what can you do to protect yourself and your information? Always be aware of the situation and do research if you can on any scam you may receive. If this seems difficult to do, ask someone you trust for advice. If you’re unsure about a fraud call, hang up and call AARP’s Fraud Watch Hotline at 1-877-908-3360. There are volunteers there who are trained to spot scams and can help you.