Financial scams that abuse the elderly are a growing problem within the US, with more than $36 billion swindled every year. Reports suggest that at least one in 18 older adults within the US are scammed every year – and that figure is even higher amongst those who are more vulnerable.
Some of the financial frauds which succeed have been cleverly designed to make them hard to spot, even by the most astute individuals. However, being pre-warned is one of the most useful tools in elder abuse prevention so here are some of the common senior scams around right now.
Some estimates suggest that seniors account for a third of all prescription drugs in the U.S. In view of rising costs, many older individuals could be tempted by the promise of cheaper medication. This is how scammers hook their victims.
Typically set up as an online website, the “drugs” that arrive are either complete placebos or a cheap alternative. This means that either the condition goes untreated and/or side effects from low-quality ingredients occur – both scenarios are potentially very dangerous.
Another scam that focuses on medical treatment is fake Medicare reps. This often involves a doorstep visit with a very convincing “rep” who either needs to see your Social Security number or asks for payment for a supplemental policy.
The introduction of the Affordable Care Act means there’s no research required as all those aged 65 and over qualify for Medicare.
Fake grandchild calls
Have you ever noticed that voices on the phone sound so different from real life? This is why this particular scam works so well – and also because it tugs on the heartstrings.
The fraudster calls and opens by saying, “Hi Grandpa – it’s me!” This then prompts the individual to respond, “Hi – is that you Sally/John/Marie?” This means the scammer hasn’t had to do any homework or have prior knowledge as the person gives them all the details they need.
The next move is for the fake caller to pretend to desperately need some money but they beg their grandparent not to tell their mom for fear of getting into trouble. A variety of ruses could be used such as car repairs or an overdue bill, with payment to be sent to Western Union or similar. This allows the funds to be collected without any ID.
The amounts involved in this type of scam are relatively small but it’s a hoax that can be tried time and again with very little work required.
Phishing and malware are two of the most common types of attempted fraud but there’s another one which preys on these insecurities.
The older person receives a call from an “engineer” who pretends to be from a company offering free checks for your computer. Sounds harmless, right? They conduct this security monitoring over the phoned to do this, all that’s needed is your approval for remote access. Once you grant this, they will surreptitiously download software to your computer which enables them to empty your bank account.
This is one of the most common types of scam and often involves identity theft and computer damage too. It’s thought that around 15% of people have received one of these calls.
Don’t get caught out!
Elder abuse financial scams are on the rise, and the above four examples highlight just a few things to watch out for. In general, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Don’t get sucked in by promises of a big payout, a “secret” way of earning cash or threats of losing your Medicare if you don’t pay up. If in doubt, put the phone down, close the door or turn off your computer and check the facts with someone else first.