According to the National Council on Aging, the most common types of senior scams include:
- Medical and health insurance scams
- Counterfeit drugs
- Funeral and cemetery scams
- Fraudulent anti-aging supplements
- Telemarketing/phone scams- fake charity calls
- Internet scams- this includes e-mail phishing scams
- Investment schemes
- Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
- Sweepstakes/lottery scams
- Grandparent scam- callers pretend to be a grandchild or younger relative who has fallen into an emergency
All these are especially concerning if your senior loved one lives far away from you and you don’t have the opportunity to observe or oversee interactions they may have with potential scammers.
In this post, we’ll talk about the signs of potential senior scams and how you as caregiver/child/loved one can take steps to nip it in the bud.
What you should know about senior scams (According to the FBI)
According to the FBI, scammers target seniors for the following reasons.
- Senior citizens are likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit. All of these things make them attractive to con artists.
- People who grew up in between the 1930s and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Unfortunately, scammers exploit this because they know they are less likely to hang up on them over the phone.
- Seniors are less likely to report a scam because they don’t know who to report it to. They may also be too ashamed that they got scammed and so not report it.
- Victims of senior scams may not report crimes because they are concerned that relatives may think they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
- Scammers know that even when a senior reports a crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators.
- Seniors may realize they were scammed weeks or months after the fact. This gives the scammers more time to escape and never be caught.
- Seniors are more interested in and susceptible to products promising to boost brain function or improve any aspect of their physical health. Scammers will try to sell them health remedies that are not proven or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
All these factors are the reasons why scammers find it so easy to dupe seniors.
How to spot a senior scam
Scammers commonly use the following tactics.
- Your senior loved one tells you that they received a phone call or letter telling them they were a winner of a lottery and that they just need to send in their bank information to claim their winnings.
- If the caller is asking for sensitive personal information, 99% of the time, a scam is afoot. Scammers will ask to receive date of birth information, addresses and bank information.
- Scammers tell seniors that the offer is “secret”. They will encourage them not to share this “secret” with anyone.
- They also provide very little written information. Essentially, if you cannot look up a company website, verify them on social media or find them in online business listings, it is very likely they are scammers. Even if they do have all these in place, it is important to be wary of all the other tactics scammers use.
- Scammers like to pressure people to act quickly or “lose the chance of a lifetime”.
- If it seems too good to be true, it is. Scammers are sweet-talkers. They are overly nice and will try to sweet-talk seniors into taking their “deal”.
What to do when you spot a senior scam
First of all, the simplest way to avoid a scam is to educate your senior loved one before it happens.
Prevention is always much better than a cure.
Thus, an open discussion with your senior loved one about scams and why they are easy targets for them is the first step to preventing the issue.
Secondly, you can encourage your senior loved one to check with you before they enter into any agreements or contracts with companies they have never dealt with. Offer to be a “second pair of eyes” for them to protect their interest.
It is important to report the case immediately to the police.
These scammers tend to work in a series and it is likely that if they have done once, they have done it before and will do it again. When you report quickly, it increases the chances of their arrest.
Last but not least, hiring the services of a fiduciary is very helpful when it comes to elders managing their funds.