Recently we ran an article that flew right to the top of the charts: Scammed By Love. It’s the true story of 73 year-old Lydia, from Vancouver, who was scammed by a guy she met through an online dating site. And it quickly reminded me of the time I was in my 90 year-old mother’s home when the infamous “Rachel from Cardmember Services” called. These calls, these scams, are annoying for most of us, but when they’re targeted toward those in the “senior” part of the After Fifty years, they can be most troubling, even alarming.
The National Crime Prevention Association (NCPA), in an article about Senior Fraud, says that fraudulent telemarketers direct 56-80% of their telemarketing scams to senior citizens. Why? Because the scammers know that this age group is vulnerable and “more susceptible to their tricks.” So, just like I had to have a heart-to-heart with my Mom (about “Rachel” and her wily ways – and more), on behalf of After Fifty Living, I urge you to think carefully about the aging loved ones in your life.
Scambusters.org does a great job of identifying the top 10 scams targeted to senior citizens. They offer robust descriptions and relevant Action Steps for each scam. Here’s a summary of the top 10 Senior Scams, as they’ve identified them:
1. The Grandparent Scam: a “grandchild” calls urgently needing money;
2. The Medicare Refund Scam: cons target seniors asking for personal information, including Medicare card details so they can “issue a check for $250” supposedly to cover the gap in prescription drug charges. With the personal info they gather, identity theft occurs.
3. Other Health-Related Scams: cons bombard seniors with offers of bogus virility, anti-aging and memory improvement products or services.
4. Mortgage Scams: Reverse Mortgage scam that tricks victims into signing over the deed to their homes; and the Deed of Reconveyance scam in which the cons imply lots of legal problems if the senior doesn’t pay them for this public document (as in, available for free).
5. Funeral and Cremation Scams: Overcharging, “upselling,” and bogus charges – just when the senior is most vulnerable.
6. Investment Scams: including Ponzi schemes, bogus financial advisers, promises of “big” returns.
7. Contractor Scams: “Well, ma’am, you reallllly need a whole new roof.”
8. Telemarketing Sales Scams: cons using high-pressure techniques to get the senior to buy things they don’t need or really want.
9. Lottery Winner Scam: the con tells the senior s/he needs to pay some fees in order to collect their lottery “winnings.”
10. Scareware Scam: A pop-up appears on the computer screen saying your computer is infected with a virus. You’re told to download a program to “fix” it (and you have to pay for the program).
Yes, that’s quite the list. Andï¿½we’ve developedï¿½some action steps we urge you to take.
1. Alert your aging loved ones to the scams identified above.
2. Present scenarios and see how your loved ones would respond.
3. Remind them: If it seems too good to be true…
4. “Give them permission” to defend themselves against those who would do harm. “Defending” can mean hanging up the phone (or not answering it if they have caller ID); walking out of the room; placing their phone number on the Do Not Call registryï¿½(or you doing it for them); and finally, informing either you or the police if they have any doubts, whatsoever.
5. Tell them never, ever give any personal information to anyone over the phone or on the internet – UNLESS they’ve initiated the contact (and even then, be cautious). And remind them that “personal information” includes credit card numbers, Social Security and Medicare numbers, bank account numbers, driver’s license or state ID numbers and more.
We’re serious at After Fifty Living when we say “We want these years to be your best years ever.” But it may take a bit of work. Don’t let your loved ones get caught up in these scams. An ounce of prevention…