Nine commons scams, often targeted at elderly individuals, that you should be aware of.
As people age, they may experience insecurities with the unfamiliar or simply become overwhelmed, and that may make them anxious. It also makes them more susceptible to the kind of people who make a living preying on the elderly – especially widows and widowers, who no longer have a partner with whom to discuss challenges and opportunities and who may be particularly inclined to trust strangers who offer help or friendship. In order to protect those we love as well as ourselves, it’s important to be aware of the most common scams to which older Americans fall victim.
- Lottery scam – You get an unsolicited phone call or email that says you’ve won a large prize. All you need to do is send money to pay for shipping, taxes or some ancillary fee.
- Grandchild needs money scam – Your grandchild calls to confess her troubles. Or so you think. It’s not at all uncommon for someone posing as your grandchild to call and, preying on your compassion, claim to be in a crisis situation and need money urgently. She may also beg you not to call her parents (which could give the scam away).
- Charity scam – You donate to one charity and end up being on every charity list. That’s because they sell your name, phone number and email to other nonprofit and commercial organizations. These could include companies with similar names to charities you support – but they exist solely to scam donations.
- Computer scam – Someone calls pretending to be from a major company, such as Microsoft, and says he can see that your computer has a virus. He offers to help you get rid of it by asking you to log into a website that lets him control your computer – then steal your ID information.
- Time-share scam – If you own a time-share you may get a call from someone who says she is authorized to sell it for you, for a fee. After you pay, you never hear from her again.
- Homeowner scams – When a man comes to your door and offers to clean your gutters or trim your trees, it may sound like a good idea. Until he asks for prepayment and never completes the job. Hire only people you know well or who are referred to you by trusted sources.
- Medical scam – You get an unsolicited call about a discounted price for some kind of medical equipment (i.e., heart monitor, wheelchair or bathtub bench). He asks for a deposit and your personal information or Medicaid number to send the equipment, which never arrives.
- Foreclosure scam – You’re approached by a “professional” who claims your home is under threat of foreclosure and offers to pay off your mortgage or taxes if you sign over the deed to the property. With your deed, he can then refinance the mortgage for the full value of your home and take the money. Keep in mind, even if you sign over a deed to someone, you are still liable for your mortgage obligations.
- Caregiver scam – A caregiver who gains access to your accounts may conduct identity fraud, theft or overcharge you. It’s important to recognize that these scams are common and widespread. But you’re not alone in trying to decide what to do. Rely on trusted family and friends to work through financial decisions, as well as your financial advisor. He or she can discuss any challenges or opportunities you may encounter and provide sound advice.
Seven Ways to Protect Yourself
- Never pay for anything you have no memory of ordering, and avoid giving out personal information to unknown third parties.
- Work with financial institutions that have fraud protections in place to protect your credit card and banking information.
- It’s not a good idea to click links in the body of an email, especially if they purport to come from your bank or credit-card company. Instead, navigate to the bank’s official page, log in and address the issue that way, if there really is one.
- The same holds true for phone numbers. Find the official phone number first, then call to take care of any bank business.
- Never let a stranger in your house; ask him to leave his business card and say your spouse, son or lawyer will get in touch.
- Be wary of family or caregivers with alcohol or drug problems.
- If you donate or pay by check, recognize that you’re giving out your home address and other key data – limit this information to the bare minimum