Beware of These 15 Types of Senior Scams
Although it’s inconceivable that people would take advantage of the elderly, there is an increasing number of senior scams targeting this vulnerable population. These unscrupulous people are skilled at gaining the trust of senior citizens so they can rob them of their money or identities.
Our detailed guide covers typical scams and offers some of the great tips for protecting against fraud. So read on to learn how to protect yourself!
Why Is Scamming the Elderly Easy?
Before we move onto practical examples of fraud and how the elderly can avoid becoming victims of fraudsters, let’s see why the elderly are so susceptible to scams in the first place.
According to senior scams statistics compiled by the American Journal of Public Health, about 5% of seniors become victims of fraudulent schemes every year. This percentage probably doesn’t even give an accurate picture of this problem as many scams go unreported. What’s more, the FBI reports that elderly fraud abuse costs senior people $3 billion every year.
So, why do these scams happen? Many scammers play on the “relationship” card as they know that senior citizens often live lonely lives. On top of that, there is usually no one to check up on their finances, so there are many financial crimes against the elderly. Also, a lot of older adults have memory problems, dementia and Alzheimer’s, or impaired cognitive function. This makes it easy for con artists to trick them into giving them money or personal details.
Another reason why scams targeting senior citizens are so frequent is that they may have large sums of money at hand thanks to their retirement savings and pension checks. On the other hand, if their financial situation is not that good, they easily fall victim to deceitful promises of getting rich quickly.
Finally, elder fraud makes the elderly feel embarrassed about being scammed, so they don’t report the crime to the authorities. In addition, they often don’t know where they can report scams. Therefore, scammers are aware that they are likely to get away with it.
Health Insurance Senior Scams
Since all US citizens and permanent residents over 65 are eligible for Medicare, fraudsters don’t even have to do any research on health insurance providers of senior people. In fact, health insurance or Medicare scam is one of the most common senior scams.
Knowing this, they pretend to be a Medicare representative asking older people to give them their personal information, which they use for illegal actions. In another scenario of this elder fraud, con people provide seniors with phony services and use their personal information to bill Medicare and take the money.
Fake Prescription Drugs
As older people are trying to find medications at lower prices, scammers set up an online sale of drugs that are often counterfeit. So, a counterfeit drug scam is a type of internet senior citizen scams. Scamming people into buying these bogus medications is apparently a big business in the USA.
In 2013 alone, the FDA shut down 1,677 websites offering counterfeit prescription drugs or drugs without appropriate safeguards. Unfortunately, the negative consequences of this scheme are twofold. Not only are older people ripped off for money, but they buy substances that can be harmful to their health.
There are two types of funeral senior fraud. In one scenario, perpetrators read obituaries and use the information they get to contact the grieving widow or widower. When they get in touch with them, they claim that the deceased owed them a considerable amount of money, trying to extort that sum from the deceased’s family.
This type of senior scams and frauds may also involve dishonest funeral homes, whose goal is to deceive family members by adding unnecessary charges to the bill. For example, they try to sell an expensive casket for a deceased who is going to be cremated.
Bogus Anti-Aging Products
This elderly scam is focused on today’s society putting tremendous stress on physical appearance, many older people give their best to look younger than they actually are. Therefore, the cosmetics market is flooded with beauty products with anti-aging properties. Some scammers see this as an excellent opportunity to capitalize on people’s vanity, so this is another elder fraud abuse.
Some claim that their fraudulent anti-aging products contain all-natural ingredients that will work miracles, but they are, in truth, completely ineffective. Others sell fake Botox products, which are not just useless but can also be quite toxic. That’s why it’s a good idea to get yourself acquainted with the regulations concerning consumer protection for seniors.
Fake telemarketing is unfortunately pretty successful with older people. Since many seniors like purchasing over the phone, they are at significant risk of being conned this way. This type of fraud is one of the most common senior citizen phone scams and allows perpetrators to easily get away with the scam because there is no face-to-face interaction or paper trail. What’s even worse is that some senior people are deceived more than once in the same or similar manner.
As more seniors are using the internet, there is an increasing number of fraudulent schemes taking place on the web. Being unaware of the risk they’re facing while being online, older adults easily fall into the traps of unscrupulous scammers. Scamming the elderly online can happen in many different forms, from pop-ups and website advertisements to email campaigns.
However, they all have one common goal, and that is to steal personal information, such as your social security number, Medicare information, and credit card details. For instance, scamming elderly people often includes sending them emails asking them to update or verify their personal information on a bogus website.
Being preoccupied with their financial situation and constantly worrying about whether their nest egg will last through retirement, older people are incredibly vulnerable to investment schemes and in need of guidance. Senior citizen protection is paramount for this type of fraud because it puts them at the stake of losing huge amounts of money.
Scammers have come up with numerous fake investment options that seem tempting to senior citizens. They range from participating in pyramid schemes to investing in fictional businesses. One retirement scam includes perpetrators posing as financial advisors to get access to seniors’ retirement funds. All these schemes are very dangerous as they can quickly deplete older people of their savings.
This type of fraud is common enough to be specially mentioned in the laws against taking advantage of the elderly. Fraudsters usually inform their potential victims that they have won the lottery or some other type of prize but that they can claim it only if they make a payment.
Scammers will often mail their targets a check to deposit in their bank account because they know that fake checks are rejected only after a few days. In the meantime, they have enough time to collect the money they receive for phony fees, even before their victims realize they have been scammed, as the seniors trust this process. Sometimes instead of asking for some sort of payment, scammers ask for credit card details or some other type of personal information, so always remember that nothing comes for free!
When it comes to senior citizens and fraud, romantic scams are also very common. Many seniors feel isolated as they might not be in contact with their family members. Moreover, if they have recently lost their spouse or partner, they usually need companionship.
Of course, fraudsters have found a way to take advantage of their situations through senior scams online. They start “courting” them to get as much information as possible about their financial situation. Once they gain their trust, they ask for money to solve some sort of financial problem.
The Grandparent Scam
Another common fraud against the elderly includes the “grandparent” phone scam. Fraudsters call a senior citizen pretending to be their grandchild. They usually start the conversation with “Hi, grandpa/grandma!” and ask the grandparent to guess who’s calling.
When the target says the name of one of their grandchildren, the perpetrator asks for a favor, which is always some kind of financial help. In addition, they ask the grandparent not to tell their “parents” about this. Since con artists don’t have to do any background research for this type of fraud, it’s one of their favorites.
Fake Credit Cards
In this type of fraudulent scheme, a scam artist pretending to work for a reputable company, such as Visa or Mastercard, will offer a senior a credit card with a pre-approved spending limit. To get this credit card, they need to pay an annual fee and give their personal information, such as social security number and bank information. Therefore, you should be very careful when someone offers you a spending limit without knowing your credit score and always contact the company directly to check if the offer is real.
Many elderly need extra income, opening the door to yet another type of elder financial fraud. Fraudsters cash in on this by offering fake job listings. When seniors decide to apply for one of these bogus positions, they need to submit their personal information, including their social security number. This way, perpetrators easily take advantage of unsuspecting older adults, who may even work for months before finding out that they have been scammed.
In this type of elderly cybercrime, scammers advertise a great vacation offer to get money and personal information from their targets. This “amazing” offer usually has a time limit, and people are asked to place a down payment as soon as possible. In reality, the property from the ad doesn’t exist, or is owned by someone else. However, elderly people who get scammed this way often learn that only when they arrive at the destination.
Many fraudsters don’t shy away from conning seniors out of their money by posing as charity workers. This senior citizen fraud consists of fraudsters contacting their targets and telling them a sad fictional story. As they feel compassion, they quickly decide to give their contribution to this charity fund. In addition, phony telemarketers may also create a sense of urgency so that their victims have no time to give more thought to the whole thing.
A fraudulent scheme with gift vouchers is just an example of email scams as there are many different types of frauds involving unsolicited emails. In this one, scammers send emails that offer a free gift card or discount for legit restaurants or retailers. However, these offers don’t really come from legit businesses, but their main goal is to make you click on a link that will either install malware on your computer or ask for your personal information.
Senior citizens scams also include bogus diet products and programs, which were leading scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, elder fraud statistics uncover that these scams accounted for almost a third of such complaints in the first nine months of 2020. Even “free” trial offers may scam you. So, some of the warning signs of weight-loss program frauds are:
- Claims that sound too good to be true, like losing weight while eating as much as you want.
- Programs promising you will lose a specific amount of weight a day, week, or month.
- Weight loss program adds using terms like “miracle,” “scientific breakthrough,” or “revolutionary.”
COVID-19 Scams Against the Elderly
Some of the most common scams related to the pandemic include:
- Vaccine scams—Scammers contact the seniors offering them to skip the line and get a vaccine sooner. Of course, this means giving them personal, medical, or financial information.
- Buying vaccines—There have been quite a few bogus online pharmacies offering to sell online vaccines.
- At-home test kit scams—The FDA has authorized at-home diagnostic COVID-19 tests. However, scammers posing as Medicare representatives ask for social security numbers in return for a “free test kit.” And some even promise overnight delivery.
- Elderly phone scam on errands—Older people have faced the problem of not going to the grocery store and doing their shopping during the pandemic, so they ask younger people to do that for them. Bad actors may offer to do it, but they will only take the money and run off. That’s why the elderly should ask a favor from a family member or a trusted neighbor.
What to Do if Your Elderly Parent Is Being Scammed
If you belong to the group of senior citizens, you can never be too careful when it comes to scams targeting the elderly. It would help if you were well-informed about various ways con artists use to take advantage of older people. Whenever someone offers you a deal that seems too good to be true, do more research on the company making this offer.
Also, to prevent becoming a victim of senior citizen scams, avoid replying to unsolicited emails or clicking on links from unfamiliar sources. It’s highly recommended not to give your personal information, such as social security number and bank account information, over the phone or online.
On the other hand, if you are concerned about a senior in your life, here are a few tips on protecting the elderly from financial abuse. Make sure your loved ones are informed on the common ways they might be scammed. Advise them not to make any impulse buys, especially if someone is pressuring them into making a quick decision. Moreover, you check in on their bank accounts to spot any odd purchases or withdrawals.
To Sum Up
Today there are fraudsters at every corner looking for their opportunity to take advantage. Therefore senior fraud prevention is of great importance. It’s not easy to protect yourself against their devious scams, but you should at least try to give your best to reduce their chances of defrauding you.
Also, if you are a loved one or a caregiver wanting to protect a senior in your life, make sure to get acquainted with seniors’ online habits. Help them become aware of the risk they are facing and teach them how to recognize legitimate offers. In any case, always report scams to the proper authorities, as this is one of the best ways to prevent future frauds.
Where to report financial abuse of the elderly?
Reports of financial abuse of the elderly have been increasing. Believe it or not, financial exploitation of the elderly by family members is very common. If you suspect such a thing, you can do several things to report it, including:
- calling your local adult protective services and filing a police report
- contacting advocate organizations
- getting a restraining order from a court while building your case, and
- exploring options at your local probate court (if your state has one)
What are the top 10 scams?
Older people have been facing a lot of scams. However, the ten most common ones include:
- COVID-19 scams
- government grant scams
- investment scams
- telephone scams
- banking scams
- ticket scams
- pyramid schemes
- lottery and sweepstakes scams
- charity scams
- census-related fraud
How can seniors avoid scams?
When an older adult receives a suspicious call, they should:
- Ask for their full name, title, and association with their claimed organization.
- Never act before getting all the information.
- Never give any personal and financial information.
- Make sure their computer has up-to-date antivirus and security software protection.
- Call the police if they feel any fear for themselves or their loved ones.
How to report phone scams?
It’s crucial that people report phone scams to federal agencies. Even though they can’t investigate individual cases, the reports can contribute to collecting evidence for lawsuits against scammers. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission is the primary government agency that collects these complaints.
How to report a scammer?
The Federal Trade Commission is the primary agency collecting scam reports. You can report scams online with the FTC complaint assistant or by a phone call. The FTC accepts complaints about all scams, like imposter scams, phone calls, emails, computer support senior scams, prizes, grants, and sweepstakes offers, student loan or scholarship scams, fake checks, and demands for you to send money.