16 Feb Avoiding Senior Scams
There comes a point when you realize that you are the voice of reason in your relationship with a loved one. Suddenly, the father who has always been so extremely cautious begins falling for online scams, or the mother who helped you recognize deceptive sales pitches when you were in high school starts sending money to questionable “charities.” According to the NCOA (National Council on Aging), financial scams targeting seniors are so widespread that they are considered “the crime of the 21st century.” Read on for advice on how your loved ones can avoid being targeted.
Recognize and discuss some of the most common scams
People prey on seniors because they are likely to have savings or pensions and also because they may be unsophisticated in their use of technology. They may be lonely, trusting, or simply used to a culture of helping people in need — a kindness that is often exploited. Read on for six of the most common scams and how to avoid them:
These are the most common scams used against the elderly, mainly because seniors are comfortable using the phone. In fact, seniors also make twice as many purchases on the phone as the general population. Solicitors may claim to be collecting money after a natural disaster or may claim to be a grandchild in jail or in hospital and in need of money.
What to do: Remind your loved one never to give credit card numbers or information over the phone. If they want to make a donation, help them seek out a legitimate charity and contact it themselves. Practice having them say, “That sounds interesting, but I will look into it myself. Goodbye.” Enroll your relative’s number on the “Do Not Call Registry.” Make sure that your relative has caller ID and voicemail. This way, they can screen their calls, weed out unfamiliar numbers, but not miss any legitimate messages.
These are easy to fall for, no matter what your age. Scammers may send threatening emails saying that your relative’s computer has been hacked or making frightening demands from the IRS. They may offer counterfeit prescription drugs or send begging letters designed to tug at generous older adults’ heartstrings. They may phish, spoof, or try to extort money, clicks, and information a thousand different ways.
What to do: Obviously, you don’t want to create a crippling distrust in your loved ones that makes them avoid the computer completely, but you can try to create enough suspicion in their online behavior that they doubt and verify everything. The magic adage here is if in doubt, don’t click! Explain that the IRS never sends emails asking for information, that individuals desperate for money wouldn’t logically choose them to specifically send a begging email to, that nobody legitimate is going to ask to take over their computer to fix a nonexistent virus, and that misspelled words, grammatical errors, and close-but-not-quite URLs are all warning signs.
One scam is for a stranger to approach a grieving widow or widower and claim that the recently departed owed money. Another way seniors can lose money is to be “upsold” expensive and unnecessary caskets or burial plots just as they are reeling from a tragedy and not thinking clearly.
What to do: Insist on proof of any claims made. Creditors do NOT attend funerals to demand money. Although planning of this nature can be difficult, it is necessary: plan ahead. With a firm plan in place, logic is more likely to win out over raw emotion.
Seniors often have retirement accounts or savings, which makes them a prime target for disreputable financial advisors, get-rich-quick schemes, or Ponzi schemes. Take the time to explain this to your loved one.
What to do: Make sure that your loved one does not respond to unsolicited offers. Help them find a reputable financial advisor; this involves research, checking credentials, and making sure that the advisor is a fiduciary. As far as get-rich-quick schemes go, remind your relatives what they told you all those years ago: if it seems too good to be true, it most definitely is!
Scam artists often pose as Medicare representatives and ask for information that they will then use to file fraudulent claims on behalf of your relative.
What to do: If your loved one has a Medicare question or problem, they should contact them directly. Legitimate Medicare representatives will not ask for the information they already have.
Real Estate scams
It may be tempting for your loved ones to believe the claims of an entity touting the advantages of a reverse mortgage or the superiority of quickly selling their house for cash. This is especially true of those who are planning to go into senior care housing and are looking for financial solutions.
What to do: This comes down to research again, not to mention the old “If it sounds too good to be true” warning. Golden Lodge is experienced with unsavory scams targeting seniors and has researched funding sources for senior care and housing. You and your loved ones are not alone as you navigate your way through the sea of scams.
For more detailed information and advice, download this comprehensive guide from Golden Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Care: A Family Guide to Funding Senior Care and Housing.