Scammers are always looking for ways to different ways to defraud people just for their selfish gain. They chase those who are most vulnerable. It doesn’t matter whether you’re old or young; anyone can fall for a scam if they are not careful. Still, there is a particular group of people that are usually targeted more than others.
Senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals in our society. Elder abuse is a serious issue that affects many older adults. It could be physical abuse or financial abuse, the most common being financial abuse. Some people make a living out of defrauding elderly citizens out of their hard-earned money.
This article aims to help you learn how these scammers operate and what some of these senior scams are. You’ll also learn how not to fall victim to these scams.
12 Scams Against Seniors
Below are some guaranteed ways that scammers can prey on innocent seniors:
1. Healthcare or Health Insurance Schemes
This is one of the most common ways in which financial crimes are committed against senior people. As an older person, your healthcare is a crucial issue. You have more medical needs, and many older people need medication to maintain their health issues.
As a result, there are many healthcare and insurance plans that have been created for older people. Healthcare plans are helpful because they provide you with a more secure and accessible way of taking care of your medical needs. Unfortunately, while some of these programs are legit, many are not.
Although there are several kinds of health insurance scams, there are two main types, which include the following:
Medicare Plan Offer
This is a classic type of healthcare scam. Scammers find people without healthcare systems and offer them fake plans. The way it works is that the group could contact you through phone calls, flyers, or even in person.
The fraudsters will then feed you a lot of information about a health insurance plan that would work for you. They will tell you all about some healthcare initiatives and ask you to pay some money to secure your health care package. Once you give them your money, they disappear and never contact you again.
Discount Medicare Offers
Medicare plans are usually costly, so people are always looking for more affordable plans that don’t cost much. Scammers know this and set up false healthcare packages or benefits that don’t exist.
They offer cheap sample discounts to desperate older people who can’t afford the more expensive packages. Most of the time, they pretend to be a subgroup of a healthcare plan you already belong to. That way, you’ll believe the offers are genuine, and you can fall victim.
Their means of contact are usually through clone emails or phone calls with the same names and addresses as your healthcare provider. They ask for your personal information like your account details and social security number before you can activate these fake plans.
They may even give you some information like your home address to convince you. You should note that anyone can easily find your address on the internet, which isn’t valid proof. You should go to your healthcare provider to first confirm before you accept any offers.
Healthcare scams are widespread and not always obvious. You may not realize that you’re falling for a scam because of how genuine the details may seem. The scammers are usually quite confident and persuasive. However, you can easily carry out background checks on these Medicare offers to discover if there’s a scam.
2. Funeral and Cemetery Fraud
This is becoming a prevalent senior scam, and many people are not even aware it exists. The funeral scam also has many variations. It is no news that funeral arrangements and expenses are not cheap. It is also quite hard to find a decent funeral parlor that treats the dead respectably and appropriately.
Sadly, people are willing to use these sad situations as a way to defraud seniors. In these scams, perpetrators would meet the spouse or family of the deceased and pose as debt collectors. It could happen in several forms. First, they would attend the funeral of a stranger and, in the end, approach the family that they have come to collect a debt owed.
They’ll claim to be a former business partner who had unfinished business dealings with the deceased. Their primary tool of oppression is fear. They would threaten to take legal actions and involve higher authorities like the police. They know that grieving people are more emotional, and that is how they get their victims.
Another way a funeral scam operates is where the scammers set up fake funeral homes offering to take care of your entire burial arrangements. They provide many benefits like discount prices on caskets, decent burial grounds, etc. They’ll ask you to prepay the total cost, and after death happens, they won’t fulfill any of their promises.
Some funeral parlors are also in on the scam. They offer authentic funeral arrangements but at a really high cost. They make you sign contracts with shady terms and unnecessary charges, and then you end up giving all your money to these funeral directors.
Luckily, there are ways you can avoid funeral scams. According to the funeral rule, funeral homes are legally required to present you with three costing lists. These lists have different pricing arrangements:
- List for goods and services offered
- List for caskets
- List for grave liners
The law does not allow funeral homes to demand payment for optional services. For example, if you’d like to get a casket on your own, a legit funeral directive cannot insist that you should get theirs. Ensure to study the funeral rule before contacting a funeral home to avoid falling victim to fraudulent schemes.
You should also contact your financial advisor before paying any ‘debt collector.’ You should also be wary of ads offering to help you with funeral and cemetery plans. Not all of these ads and websites are fake, but most are. However, with proper research and the right questions, you will tell the real ones from the fakes.
3. Senior Benefits Scams
This is a special kind of telemarketing fraud targeted at senior citizens. Some so-called “senior benefits services” contact elderly people offering them social benefits and life insurance expenses. This scam is widespread, and because there is an entire organization like this, so many people fall.
Senior benefits services make life easier and better for older adults in several ways. Some organizations offer tax discounts, travel deals, social security payments, among others. The goal is to give seniors a fulfilled and standard quality of life at an old age.
Senior benefits scam only offer these services to get your private financial information so they can steal from you. They usually target older people who live alone and have special needs. They could contact you through phone calls, letters, or emails. They will offer services like final life insurance expenses or health care benefits.
When they notice you’re interested in these social benefits, they will ask for your personal information, like your social security number, address, etc. Once they gain access to this information, they can seriously harm you financially.
These telemarketing groups are usually situated internationally. They don’t have an actual location you can get to. If you get any calls like this, do not give your personal information over the phone and demand a meeting in person. You will most likely get no response, and that’s how you know you’ve caught a scam.
4. Charity Scams
Fake charities are another senior scam played on unsuspecting people. These scams mainly occur after a significant disaster or occurrence. Scammers take advantage of a terrible situation and pose as a charity organization asking for help.
For instance, if there has just been a heavily damaging flood, you could get calls asking for donations. These callers will claim to be working for a reputable charity group and ask you to donate a certain amount of money to help the flood victims. They will give you all sorts of details about their charity group and give you a fake website.
They may even claim that they’re seeking funds to help sick children. Sometimes, the cause may be to save the lives of endangered animals. They get you to give your money by playing on your emotions and sympathy.
Of course, there are some legitimate charities, but this is not always the case. You can avoid fake charities by looking for some warning signs. The primary detail to note is if you have never heard of the charity organization before. If the name is too unfamiliar, then it could likely be a scam.
Another sign is when you can’t trace the identity of the caller. If the caller refuses to give any means of identification, then it could be a scam call. Even when the caller provides identification, it could be false. So you should always make sure to confirm the person’s identity first before you donate.
In addition, if you feel like you’re being pressured to donate, it’s possibly a scam. There are also websites that you can use to check which charities are real. All these are effective ways of avoiding false charity schemes.
5. Identify Scams
Elderly Identity theft is one of the most common senior scams. It is where a stranger wrongly impersonates your identity to steal from you, among other crimes. According to an expert study, older people are more likely to fall victim to identity theft. This is because they are easier to trick over phone calls or through emails.
Millions of elderly suffer from identity theft every year. Once these thieves have access to your critical information, there’s no limit to the damage they can do. Identity theft can occur through emails, telephone calls, or even through personal stories.
If your phone is well secured, scammers can hack into your mail and go through your junk mail. They do something called dumpster dive, where you check through your mail to find any personal information they can use. It could be your private home address or your health information.
A person claiming to work for a familiar institution may call you. They typically say they’re from your bank, social benefits, insurance company, etc. Then they’ll try to make you give out your personal information like your social security number. Once they access your data, it’s hard to protect yourself.
The grandparent scam is a very old scam and another example of identity scams. In this scam, the scammers don’t want your identity. They want your money. A young person you’ve never met before could show up at your doorstep and claim to be your grandchild.
They will give you an entirely made-up story about why you’re just meeting them. And may even come with official documents as ‘proof.’ Some scammers even hire paid actors to act as policemen to make the scam look convincing.
Once they have access to your private life, they can steal your money or even sell your assets. It’s a very dangerous scam, and your life could even be in danger. However, there are ways you can effectively protect yourself from identity fraud. They include:
- You shouldn’t share critical information about yourself with anyone unless you’re a well-trusted person.
- Use a shredder to discard your documents before you throw them away.
- Always conduct your research before believing a stranger’s story.
- Regularly review your financial statement. When you notice any transaction that looks odd, call your financial advisor right away.
6. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
In these scams, fraudsters sell and advertise fake prescription drugs to treat ailments and diseases. They even sell medicines that are not FDA-approved. These drugs are dangerous and can cause serious harm to your health.
You may have seen pop-up ads trying to sell you medication to treat all sorts of illnesses. These scams are created to target desperate older adults with critical health issues. They take advantage of sick, elderly people and steal their money. Some businesses don’t even deliver any drugs after they collect your money.
To avoid being a victim, conduct your doctor or pharmacist before consuming any drugs. You should also be wary of pills that claim to cure terminal illnesses. Finally, legitimate medical dispensaries would always require a signed prescription from your dosage. Be wary of any site telling you prescription doesn’t matter.
7. Fraudulent Medical Devices
Although this scam is not as common, it’s still quite as harmful. Fraudsters have upgraded the prescription drug scam to another level. They sell faulty medical products to seniors by attracting them with certain perks. For instance, some online vendors sell “medical Robo-call devices.”
A made-up business sells Robo-call, a robotic device made to assist people with their daily needs. They claim that it is your robot assistant that you can send on errands. The robot will remind you when you need to use your drugs, call for an emergency, etc. In reality, this product doesn’t exist, and it is just another scam.
These scammers get you to buy their product by offering incentives like free grocery gift cards. Some vendors sell anti-aging devices, which do not exist. They aim to get your money by selling faulty products.
Before you buy products from any website, check the customer reviews first. If you don’t find any reviews, then it’s likely a scam. If there are reviews, read them over; if all reviews are negative, you should be wary. You should also consult your friends and family before you buy any strange product.
8. Social Security Scams
Many older adults above the age of 62 have retirement benefits, mainly targeted by scammers. If a fraudster has your social security number, they can steal your identity and take all your savings.
There are several mediums used to carry out social media scams. It could be operated through emails, impersonating a social security officer, and telephone calls. Scammers are always coming up with different ways to get people’s social security numbers.
These scammers mostly use a system called phishing. Here, fraudsters send emails pretending to be from your social security company. These emails ask you to urgently give your personal information and security numbers to avoid losing your money. Many unsuspecting users fall for this scam because they’re afraid to lose their money.
This is a viral scam, and thousands of victims are recorded every year. Older victims go through a lot of pain, trying to recover from social security scams. It has also caused the deaths of many victims of this fraud.
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this scam is by getting the proper information. You can check the official website of the Social Security Agency (SSA) to learn more. On the website, you’ll discover that the SSA won’t rush you to share your security information through emails, no matter the issue.
You can also save the official phone number of your social security agent. This way, if an unknown number calls you claiming to be from SSA, you’ll know it’s a scam. Also, remember that you can’t be too careful with your social security information.
9. Voice Alert Scam
Many phones nowadays have virtual assistance tools. For example, we have Siri, Alexa, Google assistance, and several others. They help you carry out tasks like making phone calls, setting reminders, and checking search engines. The offside is that scammers have figured out how to use these tools for their selfish advantage.
The way voice alert scammers operate is to hack into your phone and use these tools to scam you. They wait till when you need to make a transaction through a phone call. Your phone assistant will give you a fake number to call, and that’s how the scammers get your personal information.
Another way this scam occurs is through search engines. When you ask your assistant to search for a product, you may see many websites offering that product. Most of these websites are paid ads and likely created by paid scams. They are also known as Sploof websites.
If you want to protect yourself, try to avoid using these tools for essential purchases. You never know if your phone is tapped, so you should be careful. You can also save valuable numbers on your contact list so as not to fall victim to these scammers.
10. IRS Scams
Another thing scammers do is to impersonate IRS officials. They may go to the homes of unsuspecting people or contact them through their mails. They will then accuse them of committing some tax violation to get money from them. They’ll say you’re in trouble with the law, but the only way out is if you pay some fine.
This is a classic scam move, and once you know it, it’ll be hard to fall victim. Do not give anyone your money or access to your bank information no matter the situation, except if you receive legal counsel to do so. Also, if you have genuinely committed a tax offense, you can’t just buy out the authorities.
11. Credit/Debit Alert Scams
Here, scammers pose as officials from your credit/debit card company. They’ll ask you to submit your card details like your serial number or PIN. Once they have this information, they can use your card and steal your money.
You mustn’t give your card details to anyone over the phone. A credit card company won’t ask you to submit your security details through emails or phone. Also, if you notice there are suspicious purchases with your credit card, contact your bank immediately.
12. Customer Service Fraud
Some scammers pretend to be customer service reps of some businesses. So when you have a complaint, you unknowingly give them your information. For instance, if you have a complaint about your credit card, you will contact customer service. You may receive a response mail from the company asking for your personal information.
This is not unusual, and so the scam isn’t apparent. However, before you respond to any business mail, check the company’s official website to confirm the mail.
Senior scams are deceptive schemes that are organized and targeted against older adults in particular. The primary purpose of these scams is to steal your money or your valuable assets. While there are some new scams, most of these schemes have been around for a long time.
Now that you’ve learned what these scams are, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Thanks for dropping by. Before you go, please check out our article on the Top 7 Social Security Phone Scams.