Seniors are all-too-often the target of attempts by unscrupulous con artists to defraud them. And it is not only wealthy seniors who are at risk: fraudsters can (and do) victimize anyone, of any income level and socio-economic class. Because fraud can take many forms and involve what are often ingenious plots, it can be difficult to remain vigilant. Anticipating and arranging for protective measures is even more challenging.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) here are some of the most-frequently-reported forms of fraud against seniors:
Health Care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud. This involves scammers obtaining seniors’ personal information by phone, through the sale of bogus or unneeded health care items or services, and then using the information to fraudulent bill Medicare. The scammers then pocket the money.
Funeral and “Grandparent” Scams. Fraudsters read obituaries to target grieving widows/widowers, and then try to extort money by claiming that their recently-deceased loved one owed considerable debt. Or they will impersonate a grandchild and ask for money to be transferred to them in order to resolve an unexpected financial issue.
Door-to-Door and Telemarketing. Whether at the door or on the phone, scam artists will prey on seniors by pressuring them to purchase goods and services that are unneeded, are never actually delivered, or are vastly overpriced. Once obtained through these pretenses, the unwitting seniors’ credit card information can later be divulged to other scammers who can charge to it without authorization.
Investment and Lottery Schemes. These schemes take advantage of the fact that retirement planning is often uppermost in seniors’ minds. Fraudsters may pressure seniors to partake in “once-in-a-lifetime” investment opportunities, which turn out to be imprudent ventures such as pyramid schemes. Or seniors may be told that they have won an (imaginary) lottery that requires the payment of up-front taxes or a fee before the “winnings” are released.
Internet Fraud. Although seniors are not necessarily the specific targets of internet fraud in every case, their lack of comfort and familiarity with computers, internet security, and privacy settings may make them a more likely victim of malware and viruses. Once inadvertently downloaded, these programs can be used to hack into and retrieve seniors’ banking or other personal information.
No matter what form the potential fraud against seniors may take, prevention is key. There are many local avenues that can help with this; in Rhode Island, for example, the local chapter of the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), is one of more than 40 across the country to participate in Operation Stop Scams, which is a program that provides free document shredding, often on a “drive-through” basis, on specified dates. There are many nationwide campaigns as well, including those organized by the National Crime Prevention Counsel and the National Council on Aging, both of which are excellent resources.