Senior citizens are often believed to have a large amount of money in their bank accounts making them ideal targets for scam artists seeking to get their hands on some easy money.
Financial scams targeting the elderly usually go unreported. It can be difficult to track and prosecute the spending of stolen money. Plus, 90 percent of all known elder financial abuse cases are carried out by relatives. This fact may lower the chance that a victim will report his or her own child, grandchild, or close family friend.
Our Asurea Scam Report has compiled a list of some of the most common financial scams targeting the elderly that you ought to know about.
- Medicare and health-insurance scams
All U.S. citizens or permanent residents ages 65 and up qualify for Medicare. With the U.S. population growing older, there are an endless number of victims for scam artists to target. A scammer may pose as a Medicare representative to get an elder to give them their personal information, or they will provide fake medical services at a makeshift mobile clinic, then use the personal information they’ve gathered to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
- Funeral and cemetery scams
In one type of funeral and cemetery scam, a con artist reads obituaries and then attends the stranger’s funeral service to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an unpaid debt with them, theseimposters will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts. Another tactic is to profit from the family’s unfamiliarity with the true cost of funeral services, adding unnecessary charges to the funeral bill.
- Telemarketing scams
Seniors make twice as many purchases over the phone than the rest of the population. This simple fact makes it easy for telemarketing crooks to target older people with the perfect scam. Yes, some seniors are lonely and simply want to talk on the phone with someone. But the reality is that they fall prey to this type of deceitful activity more easily than others because they are more familiar with shopping on the phone. Faceless interactions with no paper trail are hard to trace.
- Investment scams
Many seniors are planning for retirement and managing their own savings. Various investment scams are therefore targeting seniors who are looking to stash their cash for their later years. From Bernie Madoff’s pyramid schemes (which counted a number of senior citizens among its victims) to fake tales of Nigerian royalty seeking a partner to claim inheritance money, investment schemes have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.
- Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
Deceivers like that many older people own their homes, a valuable asset that boosts the potential dollar value of homeowner and reverse-mortgage scams. The reverse mortgage deception has mushroomed in recent years. With legitimate reverse mortgages increasing in frequency more than 1,300% between 1999 and 2008, scammers are taking advantage of this popularity.
A con artist, construction worker or ‘contractor’ comes knocking on the door of your elder relative’s home. They offer to repair a roof or renovate a kitchen. Before the work is even complete, the contractor has already billed the elder client. Not knowing how to check for bad reviews or ask a savvier relative for help, the elder client loses money on a half-finished home renovation — or on work that never even began.
Fake Medicare charges
Most elders visit their doctors at least a few times a month. They may visit the doctor so often that they forget the dates of each visit and the services they received. Over time, the sheer number of appointments becomes one big blur. It is at these critical times of attending one appointment after another that an unscrupulous medical office can get away with billing an elder patient for services they never even received.
Funeral home scams
Many elders set aside funds to pay for their funeral and burial costs before they pass away. And many funeral homes are there to provide this pre-paid service, making a difficult time much easier for families to bear. But some funeral homes are up to no good. They funnel the clients’ funds into their own coffers by altering documents, changing deposit amounts or naming themselves as a beneficiary. In the end, they make themselves richer at the expense of a trusting elder.
Officials warn elders, and all people, to deal only with certified officials when it comes to such matters. If you think you have been the victim of fraud, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. There are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make matters worse. Try contacting the Adult Protective Services in your area or visit www.eldercare.gov for more information and resources on how to stop or recover from elder fraud.
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This information is provided for general consumer educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice.