Steering clear of senior focused scams is a good practice for anyone over the age of 65. Thanks to an aging population that is a little less internet savvy and a lot more polite, the FBI notes that seniors also are more likely to not report the scam until it is much too late. In fact, crooks rely on the fact that seniors are often poor witnesses, reporting the scam much too late and without too many details that can point the police in the direction of the bad guys.
The best way to keep yourself safe from scams that target the elderly is to prevent the scams from happening in the first place. Continue reading to get a handle on what to look for, and what to never do, in some of the top senior focused scams that are recently circulating.
Crooks looking to steal your identity or your medical insurance can get most of what they need by simply calling as a Medicare representative. During the call (or email), thieves will ask for Medicare numbers and Social Security information. Once they have this information, the bad guys can access more data or even use your numbers to get medical care. In order to protect yourself, never give out your Medicare number or Social Security number on the phone, via email, or via online chat. Anyone who is a true Medicare representative will never ask you for those numbers, but instead may ask you to verify the final few numbers of your Social Security number.
You can also protect yourself from identity theft and Medicare theft by not carrying your Social Security card or Medicare card in your wallet. While this may seem unreasonable, hospitals will understand your caution should you end up in the emergency room without your cards. Your loved ones can always bring over your information if your doctor doesn’t have it already on file.
Grandchild in Distress Scams
In this tricky scam, crooks play on the love of your family. Someone calls the senior, pretending to be a grandchild in trouble in a foreign country who needs money wired as soon as possible. Well intentioned and loving grandparents step in, wiring money to strangers that is untraceable before realizing that their grandchild was never in trouble in the first place. In order to protect yourself from this scam, never wire money to anyone. If you are concerned that it might be your grandchild, ask them a question that only they would know or ask them to call their parents for the assistance they need.
Seniors often fall prey to friendly voices on the phone who ask for money for fake charities or for services that never come. These con artists rely on the vulnerability of lonely seniors who are looking for someone to chat with. To prevent falling prey to these telemarketing scams, never give out your payment information (such as a credit card number or check number) over the phone. Instead, only give to charities that you can confirm are real, and only pay for services that are verified through friends or the Better Business Bureau.
Finally, seniors who may not be well versed in all things technology are often fooled by con artists selling everything from bogus software to anti-virus protection. Stop crooks in their tracks by never giving out your payment information online unless you are purchasing something through a protected third party site. Even better, have your tech-savvy nephew or daughter help you out with any service that you aren’t quite sure is necessary.
Have You Been Targeted?
Preventing the scam or stopping before it gets too out of control is the best way to keep yourself protected. If you suspect that you may have been a target of a scam, or if something seems a bit fishy or suspicious, call your local police department to report it. The more they know, the better they are able to help other seniors in your area.