Fraud targeting seniors is a growing concern as millions have fallen victim to scammers. According to a 2010 survey by Investor Protection Trust, more than 7.3 million seniors – roughly 20 percent of Americans aged 65 or older – have been victims of scams.
See Also: AARP on Scams & Fraud
Here are six scams that commonly target seniors and tips from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to protect yourself from becoming a victim:
Victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a family member stranded far from home. The caller may use the name of a particular family member. They say they are being held in jail, need car repairs or other assistance and need money wired immediately. The scammers may lace the conversation with correct references to other family members, increasing credibility.
Remain calm and confirm the status of the individual by calling him or her directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking any further action. Never provide scammers with information they can use against you. For instance, don’t venture a name when callers say, "It’s your grandson!"
Navigating the Medicare system isn’t easy and some scammers will look for any opportunity to take advantage of the confusion. Commonly, a scammer will claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. The victim might be given any number of excuses to provide this information including that an error needs to be fixed, that he or she is part of a survey or eligible to receive free products or can sign up for a new prescription drug plan.
Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information. If you have concerns about your Medicare notices or suspect fraud, contact the North Dakota Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-233-1737.
Scammers will often try to take advantage of the increased vulnerability of seniors who have recently lost a loved one, such as a spouse. They find targets by scouring the obituaries. They call the widow or widower and claim that their spouse had outstanding debts that needed to be paid immediately.
If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.