Unlicensed roofers. Unethical caregivers. Unscrupulous computer hackers. We’ve all heard horror stories of strangers—and in some cases—friends or family who prey on the vulnerability of the elderly.
These types of schemes are considered low risk because they can be difficult to prosecute and often go unreported due to embarrassment. But that doesn’t make them low impact. They can be devastating to many older adults with little time, money or resources to recoup their losses.
In order to protect our loved ones and ourselves, it’s important to be aware of scams geared toward older Americans. Here are five very common ploys criminals use to target senior citizens.
Your grandchild is in trouble: Someone posing as your grandchild calls unexpectedly, pretending to be in a crisis situation (being arrested during Spring Break for example). They will claim to need a large amount of cash wired to them urgently to get out of jail and will often beg you not to tell their parents.
Your computer has a virus: Someone calls pretending to be from a major computer company saying he has detected a virus on your computer. He offers his services by requesting you log into a website that will enable him to control your computer and get rid of the virus. However, he uses this access to steal your personal information.
Your house needs repairs: As we get older, routine household repairs can become daunting. So when someone comes to the door offering to clean gutters or trim trees, it can sound like a great idea. Be wary of anyone asking for prepayment of services and only hire people you know or who are referred to you by someone you trust.
You are offered an unsolicited discount: Many scammers reach out to elderly people offering a discounted price on medical equipment such as heart monitors or bathtub benches. As part of the scheme, they will require a deposit and your personal information or Medicaid number in order to send the equipment, which never arrives.
A caregiver offers to help with your financial transactions: Be skeptical of anyone who wants unlimited access to your financial information, even family or friends. It could leave you vulnerable to identity fraud or theft. If you need help paying bills or completing simple transactions, consider automating as many monthly expenses as possible through your bank.
Sadly, these and similar scams are widespread. But there are ways you can protect yourself. Here are five key tips to avoid being the victim of a senior scam.
Never pay for anything you don’t remember ordering. You should also avoid giving out personal information to unknown third parties.
Work with financial institutions that have fraud protections in place. This makes it easier to protect your credit card and banking information.
Don’t click links in the body of an email, especially those claiming to be from your bank or credit card company. It’s safer to navigate to the bank’s official page, log in and verify you are dealing with the company directly.
Never let a stranger in your house. Ask them to leave their business card and say your spouse, child or lawyer will be in touch.
Be wary of family or caregivers with alcohol or drug problems. Unfortunately, the desperation caused by addiction could cause even someone you know and love to victimize you.
The bottom line? Many unscrupulous people can and do target the elderly. Awareness of common schemes is imperative in protecting you and your loved ones from this rampant and devastating fraud.