The most common senior crimes are easily personalized by heartbreaking stories of fraud and deception.
There’s the financial exploitation of an elderly woman with dementia threatened by a scammer posing as a police officer demanding money to help her retrieve what she believes to be lost sweepstakes winnings. There’s the senior who loses his identity when he trustingly gives his bank number to a con man posing as a bank official.
The Home Instead Senior Care network launched the Protect Seniors from Fraud campaign to educate seniors, their families and caregivers about the organized abuses and to prevent the growing number of senior scams.
The first step in avoiding senior scams is to know what they are. Following are the top scams aimed at seniors.
• Telemarketing via Internet, phones and mail. Scammers might send out email on bank letterhead that says there is a problem with the account and asks the senior to update information, password and number.
• Fake charities. This type of scam may involve a call from a charity that claims it is supporting a reputable organization and asks the senior to make a donation. What they don’t tell you is that they are not authorized to be fundraising for that organization. As little as 3 percent of your donation may go to that organization, with 97 percent staying in the scammers’ pockets.
• Sweepstakes. Many times people will receive an official-looking check in the mail. The account number is fraudulent, but the routing number is correct, so the bank reads it as a valid check. The sweepstakes instructions will tell you, “Cash the check – you get the bulk of the money and send $5,000 to us for processing.” Fifteen days later, that check bounces and the senior is liable for the $5,000. Some even come looking like official IRS or Canada Revenue Agency refunds.
• Health-care fraud. It’s a growing “industry,” particularly in the U.S., and frequently ignored. Scammers misuse medical cards to fabricate treatment and get paid for it. Scammers find out a senior is diabetic, for example, call him or her and say, “Give us your Medicare card number, and we can send your supplies through the mail.” Or they can obtain free treatment by assuming that older adult’s identity.
• Identity theft. A senior gets the call: “We need to verify your account number.” The caller will then ask the senior to provide Social Security or Social Insurance number information. Scammers can match that information with the senior’s phone number, last place of employment and home address. When they have put that package together, they can use it to take out a loan on a home, open credit cards, go to box stores and open an account, or secure a $5,000 line of credit. The senior gets the bill, and the scammers get the goods.
• Financial exploitation, including online investment and securities fraud. Scammers will sell seniors long-term securities or stock. They have no problem selling a woman in her 80s a certificate that doesn’t mature for 20 or 25 years. They’re relying on the senior’s inability to understand the fine print. Then, if the senior needs the money, he or she must break the bond and pay penalties. Scammers make a commission. Other scams in this category may include forged checks and home-repair fraud.
For more information on Home Instead Senior Care in Mountain View, call Michelle Rogers at 691-9671 or visit www.homeinstead.com/168.