October generally conjures up many thoughts, and most commonly among young people, they are Halloween-focused. Seniors do not typically pay much attention to this annual day, aside from purchasing sweet treats for the stream of trick-or-treaters who visit wearing the season’s most popular costumes.
This can be an enjoyable evening for seniors who look forward to engaging with young people, but it can also be an anxiety-inducing event for seniors who live alone or suffer from physical or mental health conditions.
The scariness is not only limited to Halloween, though. I am always hearing about new scams targeting seniors and the elderly that cost them monetarily as well as mentally.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the most common scary scams aimed at seniors include:
- Medicare/Health Insurance Scams
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
- Funeral & Cemetery Scams
- Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products
- Telemarketing/Phone Scams
- Internet Fraud
- Investment Schemes
- Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Scams
- Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams
- The Grandparent Scam
The FBI’s Scams and Safety section explains why seniors are seen as such easy targets. “Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers.”
In addition, seniors often won’t report a scam because they don’t know how, or they are too ashamed of having been truly tricked.
The following recommendations by the FBI are intended to protect seniors and the elderly from scary senior scams:
- Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
- Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.
- Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
- Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
- Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
- Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
- Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
If you or someone you know has become a victim of elder fraud, you are encouraged to contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online, or file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
It is important that when you report a scam to have as many details about the incident as possible:
- Names of the scammer and/or company
- Dates of contact
- Methods of communication
- Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
Methods of payment
- Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
- Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given.
The FBI also suggests that anyone who suspects they’ve been scammed keep all original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications.
Out of sheer concern and necessity, the caregivers I employ at Home Helpers are well-versed in a combination of ways to help prevent senior scams. They will happily assist with opting out of annoying, and often fraudulent, phone calls, and direct mail solicitations by going online to specific websites that provide the services. Plus, they can show you what NOT to do with suspicious emails and pop-up windows.
Moreover, caregivers can research contractors for you online through the Better Business Bureau, Angie's List, and state licensing websites. They will always make sure a contractor you hire is licensed and bonded, and they will advise you to never pay for services up front. Caregivers can also answer "Unknown" calls and request your phone number be added to "Do Not Call" lists.
I strongly advise seniors to seek assistance from a trusted family member who can oversee financial matters and bank accounts to monitor for scams or fraudulent activity. A Power of Attorney or Elder Attorney will carefully advise about finances and investments in the event you are hospitalized or incapacitated for periods of time.
Don’t be taken advantage of by scammers! Keep yourself and your bank account safe and secure by remaining alert and on guard. Also, never hesitate to reach out to schedule a FREE Consultation with me so we can discuss your needs and concerns.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for the fifth consecutive year: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539