St. Louis Senior Home Care Blog

Protecting Seniors Against Scams

By Julie Bracewell

Protecting Seniors Against Scams

Each year, seniors are among the most targeted age group for scammers to work their dirty tricks. Their safety is on the line and their retirement they worked so hard to fund is also at risk. Criminals prey on seniors due to the simple fact that older people are deemed more trusting and willing to give up their financial information. What’s worse is research from the FBI has shown us that seniors rarely report these scammers, mainly because they didn’t know they were being scammed in the first place. They may also worry that nobody would believe them. This is a BIG problem.

Here are some typical frauds attempted on seniors:

Imposter from the IRS
Many of us have been through this and seniors deal with it frequently. The fraudster will call and threaten arrest or financial disaster if taxes aren’t paid on the spot. They may demand that you make the payment via secure methods like a pre-paid debit card, cashier’s check or worse yet, wiring the money transfer. You need to know that agents from the IRS NEVER call people. All communication is done through the mail in official documentation. If you question anything from the IRS, a lawyer can help you determine if it’s a crook or not.

Telemarketers
There are many schemes through the telephone. The swindler may call and build a rapport with the senior claiming they need help to get a sick relative to the hospital for surgery, or claiming the immediate incarceration of a family member if a certain amount of money isn’t presented to help them. Many telemarketers also will ask if the elderly person can hear them. Their “yes” reply is then recorded for future use. Since many companies use a person’s “yes” to verify security settings or make account changes, this would allow the scammers to hack into all kinds of financial information.

Internet/Phishing/Email
Phishing is purely done online and is usually done through email. Cybercriminals send emails that lure the senior into clicking on a link in order to update software, verify “personal” information or even payment methods. It usually looks legit unless you know what you’re looking for.

Medical Identity Theft
Citizens of the United States are eligible for Medicare at the age of 65. Scammers love to prey on seniors by offering free diagnostic screenings at local events, or tell them a scanned picture of their insurance card is needed. The embezzler may also present blank insurance forms and tell the victim that a signature is needed so that their benefits can move along faster. Never respond to anything via email. The only thing you should ever get in an email would be a receipt for paid bills.

Funeral or Burial Arrangements
This ploy is especially awful because it preys on people while they are grieving the loss of a loved one. The criminal will check obituaries and then claim there are outstanding debts owed by the person who passed away. They also will sell funeral packages or cemetery plots and then disappear as soon as they receive the money.

Time-Shares/Investments
These scams involve getting seniors to invest their cash for safekeeping. Pyramid schemes are also very common among the elderly. Another scheme in this area is the offer to resell timeshare properties but require the money for administration fees up front.

Bogus Charities and Sweepstakes
Cybercriminals love to target seniors who want to help others. They will present all sorts of emotional causes to get people to hand over the cash. Sweepstakes are also a common form of fraud against the elderly. They are led to believe they’ve won large sums of money but taxes on the prize money must be paid before the payouts can begin.

Protecting Seniors from Scammers
• Make sure caller ID is installed and tell your senior to only answer calls from numbers they recognize.

• Advise your older adult never to give out personal information, no matter how safe it may seem. This includes things like their mother’s maiden name, birthdays, social security numbers, etc.

• Ask the senior to make you an authorized signer on their checking account. This allows you to protect them by monitoring their bank info.

Always report any activity that seems suspicious. If a scam does occur, seek legal advice immediately by calling Adult Protective Services or the police, as well as informing the bank so they can work with your senior adult in reversing charges, etc. The sooner this is done, the better the chance will be of recouping the money.

For more information on elderly fraud and scams, please contact us today!