Beware of Scams Targeting the Elderly

Many seniors are at risk of falling victim to con artists who prey on them in an effort to gain access to their savings and any assets they have accumulated over the years. An example of such a scam occurs when a fraudulent individual pretending to be an IRS agent telephones the potential victim, stating that the individual owes unpaid back taxes, and makes threats to sue or arrest the senior, or suspend their driver’s license.

Seniors are also susceptible to health care scams in which people call posing as health care or Medicare representatives in an attempt to obtain the senior’s personal and contact information. They will then call the senior back at some future date, stating that they communicated with their son or daughter, who said it was fine to give them their Social Security number. In addition, scammers may offer to help seniors obtain health insurance. The National Council on Aging said that in several cases, they use the personal information to bill Medicare, and keep the funds.

Seniors must also exercise caution when dealing with professionals in whom they have placed their trust, such as financial advisers. It is not unheard of for such advisers to commit fraud and embezzle funds from seniors’ investment accounts. For this reason, it is important to use only established firms as advisers.

Some con artists will even go so far as to pose as a grandchild or great-grandchild in an attempt to secure funds from the senior. In addition, due to the increasing cost of prescription drugs, some seniors search for drugs online. But many of these drugs are counterfeit. Or, upon receipt of funds, the scammers just accept the money without delivering the medications.

Another scam is the obituary scam in which the con artist reads the obituaries, and contacts the family members to inform them that the deceased left an outstanding debt, and is calling to collect on the debt.

Fraudulent behavior has also been committed by people who work at funeral homes. They will advise the senior to purchase the priciest casket, even when a cremation will be performed. They may also add extra charges to the bill for cemetery plots.

Furthermore, tech support scams occur in which a person calls the senior pretending to be a technician from Microsoft or another well-known brand. The person then uses scare tactics to say that there is a virus on the computer and the technician must remotely access the computer in order to install software. Then the scammer requests payment in the form of hundreds of dollars via online or with the use of a credit card, and if the senior resists, the scammer threatens to destroy the computer.

Consumers can report scams to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or visiting ftc.org/complaint.

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