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Senior Fraud: How to Spot Scammers

Fraud can happen to anyone, but some target seniors with their attempted fraud. Senior internet scams are becoming more common. It is important to protect yourself and to know how to avoid the situations.

Medicare insurance scams

For U.S. citizens that are 65 years of age or older, they will qualify for Medicare. That means that there is no research required to know about senior health insurance.

For these scams, someone will claim to be a representative for Medicare to get seniors to give them their personal information. They may also offer services at fake mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare.

Counterfeit medicine

Counterfeit drug scams typically happen online. This is where seniors are going to find better prices on medications. 

These people are not only paying for medication that will not help them, but they could also be taking unsafe substances that could cause even more harm.

Funeral scams

There are funeral and cemetery fraud cases that target seniors. The first one is when people read through the obituaries to attend the funeral services. They will claim that the deceased had a debt that needs to be paid. 

Some target seniors with disreputable funeral homes in order to take advantage of the family and their unfamiliarity with the process.

A common scam like this may include funeral directors that insist on a particular casket even in the case of cremation. Cremation can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display.

Fake anti-aging products

Older adults seek out new ways to remain young appearance. Seeking out treatments and medications can make seniors vulnerable to scams. It could be fake Botox or fake homeopathic remedies, there is money in the anti-aging business.

Botox scams are more dangerous than most, as renegade labs creating versions of the real thing may still be working with the root ingredient, botulism neurotoxin, which is one of the most toxic substances known to science. A bad batch can have health consequences far beyond wrinkles or drooping neck muscles.

Phone scams

The most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. While the image of the lonely senior citizen with nobody to talk to may have something to do with this, it is far more likely that older people are more familiar with shopping over the phone, and therefore might not be fully aware of the risk.

Internet fraud

While using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easier targets for automated Internet scams that are ubiquitous on the web and email programs. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will open up whatever information is on the user’s computer to scammers.

Investment Scams

Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings once they finish working, a number of investment schemes have been targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. From pyramid schemes like Bernie Madoff’s (which counted a number of senior citizens among its victims) to fables of a Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money to complex financial products that many economists don’t even understand, investment schemes have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.

Mortgage scams

Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many people above a certain age own their homes, a valuable asset that increases the potential dollar value of a certain scam.

A particularly elaborate property tax scam in San Diego saw fraudsters sending personalized letters to different properties apparently on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office. The letter, made to look official but displaying only public information, would identify the property’s assessed value and offer the homeowner, for a fee of course, to arrange for a reassessment of the property’s value and therefore the tax burden associated with it.

Lottery scams

This scam is simple, but one that most are familiar with. Scammers inform their victims that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.

Fighting fraud

But there’s still a long way to go in stopping fraud against senior citizens, and individuals are still the first line of defense. Here are five ways consumers can help ensure the safety of the elderly:

  • Regularly call or visit.
  • Block solicitations. 
  • Provide respite for a caregiver. 
  • Set up safeguards at the bank. 
  • Arrange for limited account oversight. 

The best way to avoid scams and fraud is by staying educated on what is circulating. By knowing what to look out for, you can keep yourself safe and protected from extra risks. 

Hannah Verret
Hannah Verret is a Content Developer at Med-Alert Pros in Memphis, TN. Hannah has been working in content creation throughout her entire adult career. When Hannah isn't writing or organizing social media posts, she's spending her time reading and loving on her many pets.

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