Scamming seniors is big business. A report issued earlier this year by True Link Financial found that America’s seniors lose over $36 billion every year to elder fraud and financial abuse, and that approximately 37 percent of seniors are affected by financial abuse in any five-year period.
It is a sad fact that certain individuals and businesses specifically target seniors in a variety of fraudulent schemes. There are many reasons why the elderly are an ideal target for thieves and con artists. They have likely spent years amassing considerable wealth and resources. A combination of poor health and weakened reasoning ability make them more inclined to go along with suggestions. They are also less likely to be familiar with modern technology, such as mobile banking, email, and digital security.
California seniors and their families should be aware of and remain vigilant against such unscrupulous predators who are looking to separate senior citizens from their hard-earned savings. Here are some common scams to look out for:
Healthcare/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud
The complexities of our healthcare system can be overwhelming for anybody, and for seniors on Medicare, it can be even more so, leaving them vulnerable to those seeking to take advantage this critical aspect of their daily lives. In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
Funeral and Cemetery Scams
After reading obituaries in the newspaper, some scammers will attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts. Disreputable funeral homes may also try to scam bereaved family members by adding unnecessary charges to the bill or making misrepresentations as to what is required.
Telemarketing and Internet Fraud
Whether it be purchases through a website that are never delivered, the notorious “Nigerian email scams” seeking money in exchange for the promise of receiving a cut of a great fortune, or “phishing” scams that attempt to get seniors to disclose personal information, the Internet offers nearly unlimited opportunities for scammers to directly or indirectly get seniors’ money. Similarly, unsolicited calls soliciting money for fake charities, calls announcing that the senior has won a bogus sweepstakes or contest that will require them to front money to claim their prize, or callers holding themselves out as authorities or utilities can all prey on the elderly.
In order to stop harassing and/or fraudulent telemarketing calls, you can register your telephone numbers (including your cell phone number) with the National Do-Not-Call Registry, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To register, call 888-382-1222 or go to the website (www.donotcall.gov).
The Grandparent Scam
In the “grandparent scam,” the scammer will place a call to an older person and say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect.
It’s Not Just Strangers
While all of the foregoing schemes involve strangers, it is often a family member or caregiver who betrays a senior and takes advantage of them. The True Link study found that caregiver financial abuse costs seniors $6.67 billion annually. In some cases, trusted caretakers take advantage of an elderly person by persuading him or her to hand over control of important finances, such as bank accounts and insurance proceeds. In other situations, loved ones and even adult children pressure older adults to sign powers of attorney that give the other person the right to change life insurance beneficiaries and tamper with financial documents.
Yee Law Group, PC: Sacramento and Roseville Elder Law Attorneys
If you are a senior or a loved one of a senior looking for answers and guidance on the important matters that arise as we age, Yee Law Group, PC, PC in Roseville is ready to assist you and provide responsive, accessible, and plain-spoken counsel. Please give us a call at (916) 599-7297 to discuss your issues and concerns. We look forward to the privilege of being your attorneys.