Senior adults are often the target of financial scams, which can leave them devastated. Many seniors are believed to not only have significant funds tucked away in their bank accounts but are also seen as vulnerable targets. Plus, financial scams are often not reported and when they are these scams are difficult to prosecute. Helping seniors avoid these targeted financial scams begins with an awareness of them.

Common Targeted Financial Scams Aimed at Seniors

One of the most common targeted financial scam scenarios is the Medicare/Health Insurance scam. In this scam, the perpetrator poses a Medicare representative in order to gain access to personal information or offers fake services as pop-up clinics using personal information to bill Medicare and keep the money. Along this same line, counterfeit prescription drug scams target seniors offering lower prices on needed medication. If and when the “medication” arrives, it isn’t the genuine article and could even be a dangerous substance which can cause physical harm.

Funeral and cemetery scams are also popular among perpetrators targeting senior adults. One such scam targets grieving widow or widowers claiming an outstanding debt is owed by the deceased and must be paid immediately. Another related scam is perpetrated by disreputable funeral homes that capitalize on grieving family members by charging exorbitant costs for services and burials.

Phone scams are among the most common today. In one instance, fake telemarketers call on older people, strike up a concertation, and then proceed to collect credit card or bank information for payment of goods that simply do not exist. Another scam, known as the “pigeon drop” among con artists starts the same, with a conversation with a lonely, unsuspecting senior. The con claims to be a lawyer, banker, or other trusted individual who will happily share inheritance money, once in a lifetime deals, or even cash with the senior, provided the senior adult  offers up “good faith” money from his or her own account. 

Another phone scam in play frequently today is known as the “grandparent scam” and features the perpetrator making a call and asking, “Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the grandparent guesses one of the grandchildren, the con artist poses as the “grandchild.” The “grandchild” calls claiming to be in trouble, in jail, or in the hospital and doesn’t want to tell his or her parents for fear of reprisals. The unsuspecting grandparent on the line promises to help and  is then given information to wire or send money to the “grandchild.”

Internet fraud is another area of targeted scams against senior adults. Oftentimes this scams begin with websites or emails which trick victims into downloading spyware to gain access to information stored on the seniors computer or asking targets via official-looking emails (phishing) to verify or update their personal information.

Tips to Help Seniors Protect Themselves Against Scammers

These tips can help you help the seniors in your life avoid targeted financial scams.

  • Remind seniors, they, like everyone else, is at risk.
  • Don’t allow seniors to isolate themselves – stay involved in their lives and keep them involved in the community.
  • Encourage seniors not to buy from callers or via unsolicited emails or provide social security, Medicare, bank, or credit card information to anyone unless they initiated the contact.
  • Help seniors monitor bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized activity.
  • Help seniors sign up for the “Do NOT Call” list and unsubscribe to mailing lists.
  • Remind senior to be informed consumers, always doing research before ordering, donating, or signing up for any product, service, or supposed “deal.”
  • Encourage seniors to use direct deposit for benefit checks.
  • Look for changes in your senior’s behavior, bank accounts, junk mail, or essential bills which may indicate your senior has been the victim of a scam.

If you suspect the senior in your life has been the victim of a scam, talk with them honestly, and offer to help. Report the suspected scam to the local authorities as well as the bank or credit card company. And always offer your support to your senior through the process.