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How the Ederly are Being Scammed and How to Prevent it from Happening to You

Cara Deiro

Why are the elderly frequent targets of fraud scams?

Unfortunately, elderly individuals are the most frequent targets of fraud scams. Fraudsters target the elderly, as they may be lonely, willing to listen and are more trusting than younger individuals. Many fraud schemes against the elderly are performed over the telephone, door-to-door or through advertisements.

Which are the most common scams targeting seniors?

  1. Medicare - in scams involving Medicare, fraudsters pose as Medicare representatives to get seniors to give them their personal information, such as their Medicare identification number.
  2. Counterfeit prescription drugs - as prices for prescription drugs increase, seniors look the internet to find cheaper prices for their medications.
  3. Funerals - in one type of funeral scheme, fraudsters use obituaries to find out information about the deceased in attempts to extort money from family members or grieving spouses. They claim the deceased has an outstanding debt that must be paid immediately
  4. Telephones — Phone scams are the most common scams used against the elderly. Scammers might get seniors to wire or send them money by claiming to be a family member who is in trouble and needs money. They might also solicit money from the elderly by posing as a fake charity, especially after a natural disaster.
  5. Internet — since the elderly are usually not as savvy with handling emails and surfing the internet, they are easy targets for scammers. Victims have been tricked into downloading fake anti-virus software that allows scammers access to personal information on their computers.
  6. The grandparent scam — this scam is extremely deceptive because it plays on the elderly’s emotions. In a grandparent scam, a scammer calls an older person and pretends to be their grandchild. They ask them if they know who is calling, and when the grandparent guesses the name of one of their grandchildren, they pretend to be that grandchild. The scammer tells the Grandparent that they are in some sort of financial bind and asks if they can send money using Western Union or MoneyGram to help them out. The scammer asks the grandparent not to tell anyone about their situation. Once the scammer receives the money, he continues to contact the grandparent and asks them to send more money.

A Con Artist May Say:

  • You need to “act now” or the offer will expire
  • You’ve won a free prize, but you need to pay for shipping and handling.
  • You need to wire money or pay a debt with a gift card or forward money to someone.

Tips for Avoiding Scams:

  • Take time to research. Have a loved one help you.
  • If a caller tells you to act immediately, they are probably a con artist.
  • If something seems strange about a phone call, simply say “No, thank you,” and hang up.
  • Be careful of unusual emails or messages from family members. If a message contains a lot of typos or simply doesn’t sound like your loved one, it may be a hacker.
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