Seniors are prime targets for scammers for several reasons; they are more likely to have a substantial savings, they are less likely to report a fraud and they often times have a difficult time recalling the details of a scam to authorities, making them a poor witness. One thing you can do to help prevent being a victim of fraud is to educate yourself about different types of cons and share this information with your elderly loved ones. Here are some common frauds aimed at the senior population:
Fake lottery or sweepstakes: The senior receives a congratulatory phone call or letter saying they have won a prize or money but before they receive their winnings, they must provide their credit card information to pay for fees, taxes, or shipping and handling. The senior shares this information but never receives the prize. Or they are asked to purchase a magazine subscription or something similar in order to be eligible for a sweepstake. It is illegal for companies to require you to buy anything to enter a sweepstake.
Discount prescription scams: A senior receives an offer to purchase prescriptions at 50% off but must pay a hefty membership fee to “join” the discount club. The senior provides their credit card number but never receives the promised drugs or the medication that arrives is of questionable quality. Seek prescription discount programs through your health insurance carrier or legitimate government programs.
Credit card company fraud call: A caller claiming to be from your credit card company says he is calling to check on a possible fraudulent purchase that was made on your card and even ID’s your card number to “verify” his legitimacy. The caller then offers to reverse the charge made on the card if you can provide him with the three digit code on the back of the card. This gives the scammer full access to your credit card. Never give out any information when you receive a phone call of this nature. Instead, hang up and call the customer service number on the back of your card to confirm whether or not there was a fraudulent charge made. If not, report the scam immediately to the credit card company and consider canceling the card.
The grandparent scheme: A senior receives a phone call from a young person claiming to be their grandchild. The “grandchild” says she is calling from a friend’s cell phone or pay phone and claims to be in a desperate situation and needs funds immediately. She asks “grandpa” to wire money right away. If you receive a call like this, don’t volunteer any names until the person identifies themself. Ask for detailed information and verify their story with their parents. Never wire money to anyone unless you are absolutely certain of who it is.
Charitable donation scams: Callers or door-to-door solicitors pretending to be part of a charity ask for donations, possibly even for a charity you are familiar with such as the Red Cross. Instead of giving money to someone who knocks on your door or to a caller, mail a check directly to the charity.
For more information about common frauds and what to do if you are the victim of a fraud, visit fraud.org or contact your local law enforcement.