You get a call from your aging loved one. They begin to explain how they just received a phone call from the bank. Its 8:00PM, so naturally you become alarmed. Your loved one goes on to say that the person on the phone stated that they were from their “bank’s fraud department” and that their account had been compromised. The person from the “bank” asked your loved one for some additional information, such as their social security number, and even their account number for “verification purposes.” You of course begin to panic. What do you do? How do you protect your loved one from these carefully crafted scams that are continuously targeting seniors? So in this particular situation, probably the best option would be to tell your loved one that if someone calls, and says they are from the bank, they should say they will call them back and hang up. Then ask your loved one to call you, so that you may contact the bank to ensure everything is, in fact, all right with the account.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), financial fraud costs seniors an estimated $2.9 billion annually. This estimate is likely low since seniors often do not report fraud. They are too ashamed or embarrassed to admit they have been scammed. They also may not even know they are victims of a scam, or how to report it. Every week there seems to be a new scam mentioned in the news. It can be incredibly overwhelming and worrisome.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), here are the top 6 prevalent types of scams that are targeting elderly seniors:
1.) Medicare/Health Insurance
A scammer may contact your loved one and pose as a medicare representative asking for personal information, such as their social security number, so they can send updated medicare cards. Your loved one may also be told they need to purchase a new supplemental policy. If applicable the scammer may bring up the Affordable Care Act and ask for a certain fee for help navigating the new landscape.
Telephone scams are the most common scams being used to target seniors. The scammer can pose as a bank representative, similar to the scenario mentioned earlier. They may also pose as someone from the IRS, threatening that your loved one owes back taxes, and that they need to provide personal information, or they will be arrested. Another example, is informing your loved one that they have won a prize, such as a free trip, but have to pay taxes and fees for said prize.
3.) Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
This is occurring mainly through online. As the pricing of prescriptions continue to be on the rise, scammers take advantage by creating fake websites offering prescriptions at a discounted rate. The senior may then be mailed a prescription that does not contain any of the active ingredients of that particular medication, or even worse, ingredients that can be harmful.
4.) Investment Schemes
As seniors enter their retirement years, they are the most likely group of individuals in need of a financial advisor, as they look to secure their finances for their later years. The scammers will then pose as a trustworthy financial advisor to gain access to their retirement funds or savings.
5.) Funeral Scams
The IRS has warned about two different funeral and cemetery fraud scenarios targeting seniors. The first is when scammers may read an obituary of a complete stranger and either contact the grieving widow or attend the funeral service. The scammer will then explain that the deceased has an outstanding debt, and then try to extort money from the widow or relative to settle the fake debt. Another ploy are unreputable funeral homes taking advantage of families’ unfamiliarity of funeral costs and adding unnecessary costs to the bill. For instance, only some of the most expensive caskets are offered.
6.) The Grandparent Scam
The scammer will contact the senior, pretending to be their grandchild. They go on to ask the senior, if they know who is calling, and when the senior guesses, that scammer will then pose as that grandchild. The scammer will then tell the senior that they are in some kind of financial bind and then ask if they can be wired money. They will then ask the senior not to tell anyone about this.
I understand after reading through this list you may feel even more overwhelmed and possibly helpless than when you started. Remember, all you can do is your best to stay cognizant of some of these current scams. Take the time to address some of these scenarios with your loved one, and to make them aware to the best of their ability. Yes they may forget, but from time-to-time refresh their memory. Emphasize with your loved one, that it is not rude to hang up the phone on these potential scammers or to not answer the phone. It is better to be safe than sorry. The majority of the time, once the finances are gone, they can never be recouped. It is unfortunate that this has become such a problem in our society. However, if you remain vigilant, informed, and involved with your loved one’s life, it will be tremendously helpful and will possibly mitigate any potential scam attempts that may arise in the future.
If you are unable to check-in as regularly as you would like with your loved one, or live out of the area, contact Denver Senior Care consultants. They can create and implement a care plan tailored to your loved one’s needs and situation.
If you suspect fraud or financial exploitation has occurred, contact AARP Elderwatch at 1-800-222-4444, option 2, to connect with an ElderWatch specialist. They can walk you through the necessary next steps. Reporting it is an important piece to fighting fraud and protecting others from these potential scams.