Scams Targeting Seniors

It happens every spring and summer. As the mercury rises the number of scams aimed at seniors goes up too. For a variety of reasons ranging from difficulty hearing to being part of a generation raised to be polite and respectful, our elderly loved ones are often the target of scams and fraud. Caregivers in Connecticut and across the country should be aware of three of the most common types of fraud against the elderly as identified by the FBI:

Guard the Card. Many of the scams perpetuated against the elderly begin by gaining access to one of their card numbers. It may be a credit card, a social security card, a driver’s license number or even a Medicare/health insurance card. This makes them vulnerable to identity theft and health care fraud. Criminals use the card number to apply for credit cards, car loans and even cell phone accounts.

If they gain access to a health insurance card they often partner with a less scrupulous provider who bills their Medicare or health insurance card for services and prescriptions they never received. Help your aging loved one by finding a safe and secure place to store their cards.

You’ve Won a Free Car! Fake sweepstakes are one of the most popular ways the elderly fall victim to fraud. According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, our seniors lose $35 million a year trying to claim fake prizes. The senior may receive a very official looking check in the mail – often by special delivery – that tells them they won a large amount of money or a free car. When they cash the check they are required to send the “sweepstakes” company a check to cover “taxes”.

Within a few weeks the senior will learn the check was no good and they are out the money they sent the scammer. Sweepstakes phone calls are also popular with scammers. They try to convince seniors to pay the “taxes” for the prize over the phone with a credit card. Remind the elder you care for that they can’t win a sweepstakes they never entered and that legitimate sweepstakes don’t ask for money to claim a prize.

Fake Charities. Older adults have often lost loved ones to cancer or heart disease or another health condition. Or they may have a soft spot in their heart for children with autism if a grandchild suffers from it. These kind of scenarios make them especially vulnerable to fake charities who may call them asking for donations. Some scammers are even bold enough to claim to be collecting donations for the local fire department or police benevolent fund.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is never a good idea to donate by credit card to a charity who calls you on the phone. Fundraising experts recommend evaluating the charity using at least two different review sites. Charity Navigator  and the charity pages of the Better Business Bureau site  are two caregivers can help seniors use to research the organization.

If you suspect an elderly loved one has been the victim of fraud or a scam, the FBI encourages you to contact local authorities or your local field office of the FBI to report it. For Connecticut elders, the contact is the field office in New Haven.

Has your loved one been a victim of fraud or a scam? How did you first learn about it?