In 2011 alone it is estimated that 2.9 billion dollars were lost by the senior market due to financial abuse, or fraud. What is even more alarming is that this number is on a steady incline over previous years.
Why is the senior market a growing target for financial scams? The answer is obvious; seniors have built up discretionary funds sitting in their bank accounts, right? – Wrong; however, this is a widespread belief among fraudsters.
Financial abuse is a difficult crime to prosecute; however, the loss to the victim can be devastating.
What is the answer to putting an end, or at least decreasing, fraud targeting the senior market? Answer: Awareness.
Knowledge of the most common scams targeting seniors will protect you and your loved ones:
This fraud is typically perpetrated over the telephone. Scammers will pose as representatives from Health Insurance or Medicare companies to acquire personal information. Americans over the age of 65 are eligible for Medicare; therefore, it is the most commonly used when committing fraud against seniors.
If you receive a phone call requesting personal information, research a phone number, on the back of your card or on the company website, and call back on the confirmed phone number.
The Grandparents Scheme
The Grandparents scheme is one of the most popular amongst fraudsters who pose as a victim’s grandchild and present themselves in a difficult situation requiring the immediate transfer of funds. No matter how sympathetic a grandparent, it is important to contact the grandchild or parent on a familiar phone number to confirm the need.
Internet Prescription Drug Scams
It is common for seniors to utilize the internet to research competitive prices for their specialized prescription drugs. Ordering from an online vendor is a practice you want to avoid completely; not only will the website obtain your personal and financial information, you run the risk of receiving a drug that can be detrimental to your health.
A slower adoption rate puts the latter portion of the senior market at risk for internet scams. Pop-up windows advertising anti-virus protection have been known to trick seniors into purchasing a high-priced, fake product or unintentionally downloading a virus that can access any personal information stored on the computer.
Scammers are known to pose as legitimate companies such as one’s financial institution, insurance or the IRS prompting individuals to update or verify their personal information via email. Avoid responding to such emails and call the affiliated company, with a confirmed phone number, to inquire about the email. In addition, avoid clicking on any links in the email as computer viruses can compromise your security.
“You are a Winner!” Lottery Scams
Have you seen the commercial where the gentleman excitedly tells his wife that he won the Australian lottery? If you have, you know that the thrill of the win quickly diminished when the he was reminded that he had never entered the Australian lottery.
Lottery scams are some of the most common among the senior market. “You are a winner”, notices will be sent out; however, be aware of those that require some form of funding or personal information to unlock the big winnings. Scammers are also known to send out fake checks to “winners” requesting the immediate collection of fees or taxes on the prize. As the unsuspecting winner provides the money for funds owed, the fraudulent check will be rejected by their financial institution.
Being aware of the most common scams is vital to protecting your financial security; however, personal intuition should not be ignored. If something seems fishy, it most likely is. Knowing the red flags and paying attention to that gut feeling, will help prevent seniors from financial abuse.
Written By: Amanda Keefe