On a regular basis, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging receives phone calls regarding scams taking place over the phone, door-to-door, in the mail, etc.
A recent case involved a senior who received a call from someone claiming to be calling from Medicare stressing upcoming changes in Medicare, then asking for the senior's Social Security number as well as bank account information.
The senior gave the caller this information. Luckily the senior informed family members, who assisted with changing bank accounts immediately. Later the original caller phoned again wanting to know why he couldn't access the senior's bank account.
By this time the senior was very angry and hung up on the scam artist. This situation could have ended much differently. Unfortunately, elder fraud often goes unreported, but it's estimated that more than $40 billion is stolen from America's seniors every year, so continued reminders are necessary for all of us.
"If it's too good to be true, then it probably is" rings true in many instances. Law enforcement agencies often remark on just how difficult it is to bring elder fraud perpetrators to justice. Once an investigator has begun looking into the scheme, the scammers are already moving on to another ploy.
There's just no way to catch them all, which means it's up to you to implement senior citizen fraud protection tactics and be on the lookout for people who wish to do you, your property or savings significant harm.
If you have been a victim of elder fraud, please report it to the proper authorities. Falling for a scam is embarrassing to many seniors, making it one of the most under-reported crimes. Your assistance in the matter can help bring con artists to justice and perhaps inspire other seniors to implement better methods of senior citizen fraud protection.
A handy cheat sheet by all the phones or computers in the home is often the best way to avoid these common elder fraud tricks, which include the following top ways to beat the bad guys. The following are some of the tips that could be very beneficial in preventing fraud.
1. Just hang up.
Scammers know that senior citizens are more polite, more trusting and a lot less likely to hang up when the call becomes personal. Unfortunately, elder fraud con artists take full advantage of this fact. If you don't know the caller and questions regarding financial or personal matters come up, you can simply hang up on the caller with no questions asked. Hanging up is one of the simplest senior citizen fraud protection methods.
2. Do not speak at length with people who are unfamiliar to you.
Decline answering questions of a private matter over the phone, Internet or at the door. Above all, the key to senior citizen fraud protection is caution. If a telemarketer who is pushing a product begins asking for too much information, request the name of his or her employer, the address and a phone number. If a caller asks to speak to the man of the house and there isn't one, never indicate that you live alone.
3. Avoid sending money or providing personal financial information.
Be cautious who you disclose your bank account, credit card and social security numbers to. Suspicious, but realistic-looking checks made out for a considerable amount of money should be an elder fraud red flag. If you weren't expecting a check, it could be a fake. Checks such as these are usually accompanied with directions instructing the recipient to call a phone number. The message tells the caller to send taxes on the money he or she just received through a wire transfer service. The scam, of course, is that once the recipient sends the money, the check bounces.
4. Shred all bills, notices and personal mail before throwing them away.
Information regarding your financial situation is often retrieved by con artists from discarded mail that is not shredded, also known as "dumpster diving." It's all too easy for elder fraud scammers to get bank account and credit card numbers from statements as well as details on safe deposit boxes, ATM cards, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and more. One of the most important senior citizen fraud protection tips is to tear up all mail before throwing it away.
5. Avoid health insurance scams by identifying the red flags.
Many lower income seniors rely on their Medicare health insurance, which is why many elder fraud scams originate here. Often, less-than-reputable medical equipment companies target seniors, offering free supplies in return for their Medicare numbers. Also, be aware that it is very rare that you would receive a call from Medicare directly unless it is in response to a situation or issue that you initiated.
6. Bypass the "Sucker List" altogether.
Many seniors are eager to win something and often enter numerous sweepstakes, sign up for free magazines or register for contests. Companies with elder fraud scam artists will keep records of these submissions, meaning you could end up on what is called the "Sucker List." This list usually contains not only people who the scammers believe to be good targets, but have already been successfully targeted before.
Another invaluable senior citizen fraud protection tool is signing up for the national "do not call" registry to prevent harassing telemarketer calls. It's a free service, and you can either call 888-382-1222 or register online at www.donotcall.gov. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of "cure."