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Why are seniors targeted?
Let’s admit it: as we age, we may not be as sharp, and often we are no match for a convincing scheme. Fraudsters capitalize on seniors’ isolation, lack of tech skills, and their trusting nature. In addition, the 60+ demographic is thought to have a lot of money in savings, investments, and ready cash that scammers can tap into. But lower-income seniors are also at risk. And the perpetrator, you may be surprised to learn, is rarely a stranger. A whopping 90% of reported elder abuse is at the hands of the victim’s own family, most often their adult children, then other family members, reports the National Council on Aging.
It’s been called “The Crime of the 21st Century,” and unfortunately, older adults are most often the victims. In fact, seniors aged 60-plus are nearly five times more likely to lose money through tech-fraud than people ages 20 to 59, according to a Federal Trade Commission report. But a little insight can transform you from victim to victor.
Become A Scam Spotter
Scammers are great persuaders
Fraudsters take many approaches to set up their potential victims. For instance, they may pour on the charm, to make you feel like they are on your side. They might instill fear, and lead you to believe you must act at once. Often they pose as authority figures, such as IRS representatives or other government officials. Or they can simply pretend to be from a well-respected company or charity. And the longer they can keep you involved in conversation and talking to them, the greater their chances of success.
Everyone age 65 and above qualifies for Medicare. So scammers don’t need to do research on your provider to set their traps. They may telephone, or knock on your door, claiming to be a Medicare representative, and spring the scheme:
Follow these tips to immunize yourself against fraud:
Prescription drug ‘deals’
An increasing number of seniors are falling victim to drug scams found on the internet. Many seniors, who are seeking better prices on existing prescription medications, think they are getting a bargain. Often, these illicit pharmacies claim to be Canadian, which is known for low-cost medications. Up to 95% of these sites do not comply with US pharmacy laws and standards, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. And buyers often end up with counterfeit drugs that may be contaminated, expired, contain the wrong ingredients, the wrong dosage, or have none of the active ingredients prescribed.
Another online racket is a pop-up ad that promises proven pain relief. In many cases, this is the work of third-party marketers who recruit shady doctors and pharmacies to work with them. Once the victim calls, the doctor performs a perfunctory online ‘consultation,’ prescribes inflated-cost medications, then bills health insurance plans. Often, the ‘pain relief prescription’ is a topical cream which the buyer could have bought over-the-counter for a fraction of the cost.
Luckily, here’s a prescription for avoiding online drug scams:
It can be very hard to say no when you’re having a conversation with a forceful, convincing authority figure. They often claim to be IRS agents, who claim you owe back taxes, a pretend federal student tax, or some sort of penalty. They may also claim you are being investigated. Other scammers pretend to be bank officials, investment financial advisors, contest or lottery managers, and even family members.
Here are some warning signs to be listening for:
Phone scammers have one common goal: to get you to send them immediate payments, either through your credit card, a preloaded debit card, or wire transfer. They don’t want you to think it over, ask someone else’s opinion, or do a background check.
Once a victim falls for a telemarketing scam, his/her name is commonly circulated to other fraudsters, as an ‘easy mark’ they can prey on in future. That doubles your motivation to protect yourself against these schemes.
Here are some ways to do that:
Scammer scenarios to beware of
Unfortunately fraudsters are very resilient, and as authorities clamp down on one scheme, another version quickly pops up somewhere else. Here are a few of the most common set-ups:
The list of successful schemes is formidable. One involves kids selling magazine subscriptions door to door to raise money for ‘good causes.’ Another scam preys on grieving families, with thieves watching obituaries and funeral homes, then swooping down demanding payment on bogus debts the deceased owed. Mortgage scams involve official-looking letters that offer tax reductions for a fee, or reverse mortgages that make the homeowners’ equity available to the scammer.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
Do you think you’ve been the victim of fraud? Follow these steps:
Protect yourself proactively
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to recover any money lost in a scam. That’s all the more reason to ensure you do not become a victim. Forewarned is forearmed. So become educated on the types of scenarios that may be aimed at you. The National Council on Aging offers information and tips, at www.ncoa.org. The FTC site, www.ftc.org/onguardonline, is another good source of ways to improve computer security. Block mail solicitations for five years at a time, through the Direct Marketing Association mail preference service, www.thedma.org. Stop receiving credit offers on www.optoutprescreen.com. And check out your phone service’s anti-robocall program.