Times are hard, and more and more con artists are out there. They are getting smarter too, using the Internet and technology to their advantage. Elderly scam victims in the United States hand over at least $2.6 billion to crooks every year, according to recent newspaper reports, with as many as one in every five seniors losing money. For seniors who want to make sure they don’t fall for scams, here are 10 common scams to watch out for.
You may receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Medicare offices, seeking your personal details for identity theft. Never give confidential information to anyone over the phone if you aren’t 100% sure who they are. Call a known number to ask if any information is needed, confirming with a second-party before giving away any information.
2.) Health Care
Offers of “free” equipment or supplies, especially for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Later you’ll be charged hidden fees or given shoddy or unreliable equipment. Always order your supplies and equipment from reputable places, making sure you get your health care provider’s opinion before ordering.
Reverse mortgages offer very poor financial return and absurd interest rates, and have cost many seniors their homes. In addition, scams where publicly available documents are labeled as legally required and charged fees for have cropped up as well. Keep your mortgage paperwork safe, and always work with a reputable bank or lender when looking to mortgage a home.
4.) Funeral or Cremation
Funeral and cremation scams usually involve overcharging, “upselling” — persuading you to buy the most expensive items, and bogus claims of costly services supposedly needed to meet legal requirements. When estate planning, always have someone trusted and knowledgeable carefully examine documentation to make sure you aren’t missing the fine print.
5.) The Grandparent Scam
Truly despicable con artists will contact you either pretending to be a grandchild or pretending to be an authority figure holding a grandchild, such as a foreign police department, claiming that a grandchild who is overseas needs funds for various purposes. Never wire money overseas for an unknown third party.
6.) Bogus Contractors/Inspectors
Con artists who trick you into believing there is serious damage to your home and offer you their services on the spot. Never agree to immediate repairs, and always get a second opinion from a reputable or known contractor or repairman before agreeing to any work.
Many telemarketers use high-pressure situations or bully consumers into purchases they don’t want. Place your name on the National Do-Not-Call Registry and always hang up on a caller who is making you stressed or upset.
8.) Fake Lottery Winnings
This one is all too common. Callers or junk mail will make it appear that you have won a large sum in a lottery that you don’t remember entering. They promise a big payout if you pay “administrative” or “transportation” fees. You never have to pay anything in order to receive winnings, and be especially wary of anyone who asks you to perform a wire transfer or purchase prepaid cards.
9.) Investments and Ponzi Schemes
Be wary of any friends offering you tips or promising you a huge payout in order to receive investment money from you. Occasionally the offer of a free luncheon or conference will lure in people by looking like a legitimate company seeking investors. You should have a trusted financial advisor who can keep you appraised of scams and the state of your money.
10.) Scareware and Anti-Virus Software
If you receive a pop-up from a website or on your computer claiming that your computer is “infected” or that by downloading some software you can speed up your computer’s runtime, it is a scam. The software you download may itself be a virus, or you’ll end up charged hidden fees for activation. Get a reliable and trusted anti-virus software and keep it up to date and your computer will remain safe.