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Don’t Get Fooled Again: How to Avoid Scams that Target Seniors

Woman being scammed over phone

It’s a sad fact of life: senior citizens are among the most popular victims of the world’s scam artists.

According to the FBI, this is for a few different reasons.

  • Senior citizens are more likely to own their homes, have money tucked away and have an excellent credit score.
  • Seniors are more interested than younger people in products that can make them healthy. After a lifetime of seeing different diseases cured or eradicated, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that a con man’s miracle drug can do what’s promised.
  • Older people don’t always make great witnesses. Their memories can be shaky, and they might be reluctant to report fraud because they worry their families will think they can’t be trusted to manage their finances.

If you have elderly parents, it’s important to keep an eye out for some of the most common scams that target seniors.

  1. Telemarketing scams

man on a computer sending spam mailsWhen it comes to scams that target seniors, these are maybe the most common. There’s no in-person interaction or paper trail, making it harder to investigate.

Sometimes it’s something simple, like a person collecting for a phony charity in the wake of a well-publicized disaster.

But other telemarketing scams are more complicated, like the “pigeon drop,” which is structured in a fashion similar to the “Nigerian prince” email scam: “I can give you access to a large amount of money in exchange for a down payment for a smaller amount.”

A scammer calls and says they have access to a large amount of money and can share it with the victim in return for a good faith payment from the senior’s bank. Often a second scammer shows up to help give the scam credence.

  1. Medicare/health insurance scams

Medicare or clinic scamThe fact that senior citizens qualify for Medicare makes Medicare-related scams easier to execute. Scammers know going in that the person they’re targeting qualifies for the government program.

Armed with that knowledge, scammers pretend to be someone from Medicare in order to access their personal information. More sophisticated scams involve people who set up phony clinics, provide fake services, and then use your personal information to bill Medicare.

Remember that Medicare will never call – or send someone to your home – with a billing issue.

  1. The “Hi Grandma” scam

If you needed proof that con artists are sociopaths, look no further than this one. It begins when the scammer calls a senior with this greeting:

“Hi Grandma. Do you know who this is?”

Once the grandmother/grandfather guesses which “grandchild” is on the other end of the call, the scammer has an opening to pitch a request for emergency funds. They’re behind on their rent, their car broke down, etc.

All the grandparent has to do is send money through a service like Western Union. Because it’s a con that doesn’t require a lot of research, it’s something they can get away with over and over.

You can avoid this scam by asking the caller a specific question, something only your grandchild would know. If you suspect you’ve been targeted, call the police.

  1. Funeral scams

If scam artists aren’t above pretending to be distressed grandchildren, there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t target recent widows or widowers. All they need to do is read an obituary and call up that person’s late wife or husband, saying that there’s an unpaid debt the deceased left behind.

  1. Counterfeit prescription drugs

Seniors should always buy their prescriptions from a pharmacy.Many senior citizens use the internet to buy prescription drugs, and this often leads them to buy counterfeit drugs.

Some scam artists will even sell seniors prescription drugs over the internet, and then pretend to be law enforcement officials and extort the buyers. It’s a good rule of thumb to only buy prescription medication from a licensed pharmacy. If you’ve bought drugs online and suspect you’re being scammed, contact the DEA.

  1. Mortgage scams

As we said in the beginning, many older people own their homes, which makes them ideal victims in scams that target seniors.

For example, some scammers will pose as tax assessors and offer to do a reassessment on your home, in exchange for a fee.

How to avoid scams that target seniors

You and your loved ones can protect yourselves against scams by taking these steps:

  • Avoid buying from unfamiliar companies. Always get a salesperson’s name, contact information, mailing address and business license number. Give yourself time before making a decision.
  • Make sure you shred any receipts with your credit card number to avoid identity theft.
  • Sign up for the “Do not call” list
  • Set up direct deposit for any benefit checks you receive
  • Unless you were the one who initiated the call, never give out credit card, banking, Medicare or Social Security info over the phone.

At Pennsylvania Stairlifts, we recognize how important it is to know that your loved ones are safe and happy in their retirement years.

C-VPL-3300-series-Enclosed-VPL-by-stairs BlueThat’s why we offer only in the best in terms of products designed to let people age in place, installing stair lifts, platform lifts and other devices that make homes more accessible and inviting. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

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