Common Financial Elder Abuse Scams
Tips to help protect against financial abuse.
According to recently released Census Bureau projections, the number of Americans 65 and older will double over the next 30 years to 80 million. Because older Americans have worked and saved longer than their younger counterparts, they naturally hold a much larger share of the nation’s wealth.
Scammers are all too familiar with these statistics and are constantly developing new strategies to illegally take this money from the elderly. There is no limit to the imagination of a crook. Here are a few of the most common scams.
Some simple things that you can do to help protect your loved one:
1. The Grandparent Scam
The scammer will place a call to a senior and when the mark picks up, they will say something along the lines of: “hi grandma, do you know who this is?”
When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity with little to no effort. Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, bail money for a dui, etc.), to be paid via western union, prepaid card or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect. At the same time, the scam artist will beg the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they will kill me.”
Always double check with family to confirm that an actual crisis is happening.
2. Lottery Scams
You will NEVER win a foreign lottery. This scam begins with a letter, telephone call or email telling you that you have won a lottery. The crook then tells you that you have to pay a small amount of money to qualify or satisfy some sort of tax before the big payout can be sent to you. The crook tells you to wire money or send a money gram or prepaid credit card. Don’t do it!!! It is a scam. In fact, it is against U.S. law to solicit the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. If someone contacts you about winning a foreign lottery, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
3. IRS or U.S. Treasury Scam
This scam occurs when the crook calls the target explaining they are from the IRS or U.S. Treasury to inform the victim that they are past due on taxes and demand money from you or you will go to jail. Another trick is to say you are due a refund, which is nothing more than bait for you to hand over banking account information.
Five indications it is a scam because the IRS does not:
- Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a certain payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.
If any of these situations occur, hang up and call 1-800-366-4484
If you get an email or text message, do not reply or open any attachments. Contact the IRS.
4. Bogus Charities
Money is solicited for fake charities. This often occurs after natural disasters.
Always research the organization before giving it money. It may be a valid charity but one where only a small amount of your money actually goes to the charitable cause. Many charities pay huge salaries to its directors and are inefficiently managed. There are many other charities whose beneficiaries will get much more bang from your buck.
5. Unnecessary Home Improvements
The scammer will point out hidden damages to roof tops, structures and/or pluming in order to offer repair services. Often times there may be a legitimate repair needed but the scammer will upsell the elder to products or services that are not required.
Always use a licensed contractor that was referred to you by a trusted source. Do not hesitate to get a second opinion if the cost seems too high.
6. Debt Collection Scams
Here, someone calls saying you have an unpaid debt and could face wage garnishment, lawsuits or jail time. But even legitimate debt collectors can’t make threats. If you have debts in collection, know your rights so you can deal with the issue.
7. Internet Fraud
As web use among senior citizens increases, so does their chances to fall victim to internet fraud. Internet fraud includes non-delivery of items ordered online and credit and debit card scams.
Only make purchases from trusted sources. Never give out personal private information such as social security number, credit card and bank account numbers, drivers license number, address and telephone numbers.
8. Medical Equipment Fraud
Equipment manufacturers offer “free” products to individuals. Insurers are then charged for products that were not needed and/or may not have been delivered.
Do not accept products that you have not been looking for and be cautious of anyone wanting to give you something for free.
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
9. Suspicious Credit Card Activity Scam
If you receive an email from a credit card company or financial institution claiming that there has been “suspicious activity on your account,” NEVER click on the link and immediately call your credit card company using the number on the back of the credit card only to verify if it is legitimate or bogus.
10. Funeral & Cemetery Scams
Funeral directors steer customers towards expensive showroom models first. They also push expensive “protective” casket gaskets to delay penetration of water into the casket, theoretically preserving the body from biological entities.
Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
11. Telemarketing / Door to Door Scams
Seniors, especially older woman living alone, are a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and health care products, and inexpensive vacations.
If you get a call from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell you something you hadn’t planned to buy, say “No thanks.” And, if they pressure you about giving up personal information-like your credit card or social security number-it’s likely a scam. Hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
Consider registering your phones with the National Do Not Call Registry
12. Cancer Rip-off
Last year the Federal Trade Commission charged four national cancer charities (the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society) with defrauding consumers of $187 million! At the other end of the spectrum is a local person in your community claiming to have cancer and swindling tens of thousands of dollars from sympathetic supporters.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO
Before contributing to any charity, check out its rating on charitynavigator.org. Instead of giving cash to door-to-door solicitors or your credit card numbers to callers, ask for more information about the charity (brochures, websites) so you can investigate the cause first. NEVER sign up for magazine subscriptions from solicitors. The money does not go back to their college, it does not go to help kids stay off drugs…you get the point. Also be wary of popular online giving sites such as gofundme.com The best thing you can do to protect yourself from this or any scam is to be skeptical. Ask questions, trust your gut.
13. Tech Support Calling
According to Microsoft, this just might be the biggest consumer scam in the U.S. right now. In 2015 an estimated 3.3 million people were victimized by a tech-support con. Here’s how it typically works:
You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft or Windows tech support, who says viruses have been detected on your computer. In order to protect your data, you are told to immediately call up a certain website and follow its instructions. A dummy screen may appear that shows viruses being detected and eliminated, but in reality malware is being installed that allows the scammer to steal your usernames and passwords, hold your data for ransom or even use the webcam to spy on you.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO
HANG UP! Neither Microsoft nor their partners make unsolicited phone calls. Also, don’t click any links in unsolicited emails from ‘Microsoft’ or in pop-up ads promising to speed up your computer. Another reason to have the “Caller ID’ option added to your phone service.