Preventing senior scams

Mark goes to visit his mother one day to spend some time with her like a good son would do.  He and his mom are sitting in the living room chatting when the phone starts to ring.  She walks to the kitchen to answer the phone and starts talking to the person on the other end.  Mark, still in the living, starts to overhear his mother giving out some personal information, so he walks in and asks his mother who is calling.  His mother tells him its someone from her insurance company, so Mark asks to speak with the person.  As soon as Mark asks who they are, the person hangs up.  This situation could have been a lot worse if Mark was not there to intercede.  Mark’s mother almost walked right into one of many senior scams.

Senior scams, also known as senior financial abuse, can be defined as when a senior citizen is coerced or tricked into giving away their assets.  Senior financial abuse is the most common form of elderly abuse and it is still growing.  Most of the scamming is committed by a close family member of the senior.  However, even though scams by strangers are less frequent, they occur more quickly and can even turn out to be a larger financial loss for the senior.  Scams can come from many different places in a senior’s life, so they need to know how to avoid them.  Keep reading to see some steps that can be taken in preventing senior scams.

Health Insurance/Medicare Scams

Medicare and health insurance fraud are one of the most common types of scams amongst seniors.  In these scams, the scammer will try to pose as a Medicare or other health insurance representative so they can get personal information out of the senior.  Also, the scammer might provide a bogus service for a senior at a makeshift mobile clinic. Then the “representative” will use the personal information the senior provided to bill Medicare or another health insurance and pocket that money.  Some methods seniors can use in preventing senior scams regarding Medicare/Health insurance fraud are:

  • Protect your Medicare number like your credit card number (do not give it out over the phone unless you called the number)
  • Be cautious of salespeople that say Medicare will pay for what they are selling
  • Review your Medicare statements to verify you received what they are billing
  • Never sign blank insurance claim forms
  • Review your insurer’s explanation of the benefits statement

Phone/Telemarketing Fraud

The most common scam among seniors is when a scammer uses a fake telemarketing call.  Senior citizens purchase things over the phone twice as much as the national average.  There are two main reasons seniors fall victim to these phone scams.  The first reason is that the senior is lonely and wants someone to talk to.  This results in a conversation that will result in the senior buying something because they were talked to.  The second reason is that seniors are more familiar with purchasing things on the phone and are not fully aware of the risk.  Also, these scams are common because of how hard they are to trace since there is no face-to-face interaction or paper trail.  Once the scam has occurred, the senior’s name is typically shared with other scammers looking for targets.  Some tips seniors can implement in preventing senior scams via telemarketing/phone are:

  • Do not purchase anything from a company that you do not recognize
  • Ask and wait to receive written material about the offer
  • Ask for a salesperson’s name, business, telephone number, street/mailing addresses, and business license number before you buy anything
  • Take some time to decide. Do not rush the purchase
  • Remove phone number and home address from directories

Scams Via The Internet

Many seniors find themselves caught in an Internet scam because many seniors only have a broad knowledge and understanding of the Internet.  The senior’s unfamiliarity with nonvisible parts of the Internet, like firewalls and viruses, make seniors fall into traps. There are two main forms of Internet scams.  The first form is viruses.  Pop-up browsers will pretend to be a virus-scanning software and trick seniors into downloading an expensive, fake anti-virus program or a real virus that the scammers can use to hack the senior’s computer.  Also, the second form is email/phishing scams.  This is when a senior will receive an email from a scammer that pretends to be a legitimate company or institution.  The scammer will ask them to update/verify the senior’s personal information, thus giving it to the scammer.  Some methods seniors can use in preventing senior scams on the Internet are:

  • Never open a random pop-up that looks like an anti-virus program
  • Do not download anything you do not know for sure what it is
  • Ask for information about any company that wants your information
  • Do not open any attachments or files from someone you do not know
  • Do your research on the emailer to verify they are legitimate

The Grandparent Scam

This scam is a simple but heart-breaking one because of how personal it is.  With this scam, the scammer will call a senior and ask something like “Hello Grandpa, do you know who this is?”  Then the unsuspecting senior will guess the name of a grandchild who the voice sounds closest to.  Now, the scammer has assumed a fake identity and did not do any research to get it.  Once the scammer has established this fake identity as the senior’s grandchild, they will usually ask for money because of a financial crisis they are in.  They will say that the payment needs to be made through a medium that does not collect identification to collect.  The scammers will also ask the senior to “not tell their parents,” to avoid anyone finding out about the scam. Some tips seniors can implement in preventing senior scams via the Grandparent scam are:

  • When they ask if you know who it is, make them identify themselves first. Do not guess.
  • Always make an unidentified number ID themselves
  • Make sure it is your grandchild before you send the money

If you have been scammed…

The first thing you should do is tell someone you trust.  There is nothing to be afraid or embarrassed about.  Many people fall victim to these scams daily and doing nothing about it can only make the situation worse.  Be sure to have the phone numbers of the local police, your bank, and Adult Protective Services.  The only way to possibly fix the scam is if you tell someone.

Visit At Home Senior Services

Falling into the trap of a scam can be devastating financially and emotionally, especially when it happens to you or someone you love. Oftentimes, seniors may fall prey to these scams because of forgetfulness or loneliness, as mentioned above. If you think your senior loved one could use companionship or even additional assistance with everyday activities like meal preparation, grooming, or transportation, home care may be the best option.

Home care can give the senior in your life the ability to remain independent at home by having the assistance of a compassionate caregiver who helps them perform daily activities of living, like dressing, bathing, meal preparation, and much more. Agencies like At Home Senior Services can help. At Home Senior Services is an in-home care agency dedicated to helping seniors age in place throughout the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Visit www.athomeseniorservices.com  or call 412-604-0410 to start the process of connecting with a caregiver.