10 Scams Perpetrated On Seniors – Part 2
In part 1 of these two posts of the most common types of scams perpetrated on seniors, we covered the Cemetery & Funeral Scam, Counterfeit Prescription Drugs, Fake Anti-Aging Products, Healthcare Fraud, Medicare Fraud, and the old Pigeon Drop Scam. In Part 2, we are listing 5 additional scams that are among the more popular ones. These 10 scams mentioned here are by no means all inclusive, as these unscrupulous individuals create more as situations change.
6. The Fake Accident
This one is fairly much self explanatory, and is similar to the Grandparent scam. An elderly individual is contacted, usually by telephone, and is told that one of her children or a grandchild has been severely injured in an accident. They must have immediate surgery to save their life and the hospital won’t do it without a substantial cash deposit due to an insurance problem. If the elderly person bites, he/she is then given instructions for wiring the funds that are never seen again.
7. Charity Scams
This one is very common, and hits senior adults and others. Just after any national disaster such as hurricanes, flooding, etc., you’ll see a lot of charities popping up telling you that this charity is on the front lines providing food, shelter, and other assistance to the victims of the disaster. They are in dire need of your contribution, no matter how small, and often you’ll see a picture of a crying child to make an impact.
Even after the 911 disaster, bogus charities were discovered, including a few that were allegedly religious institutions. These con artists prey on your sympathy and have no scruples or morals. Check them out before you write your check.
8. Internet Fraud
This one is so prevalent that not only the elderly are victims, but practically anyone that doesn’t read all the fine print. If you ever go to a download page for a software program that you want, you’ll see more download links there than you bargained for. Pop ups appear that purport to be virus scanning programs, and if you click on those, you may be downloading a fake program or an actual virus that will scan your computer for personal information. Even worse, the virus may be a keystroke logger that will send your passwords to confidential programs, such as banking to the scammer.
Email and Phishing Scams
This is yet another example of internet fraud that seniors, and many others, are inundated with. Practically on a daily basis, we receive emails from well known sources, requesting us to update and/or verify some bit of our personal information. Countless individuals, who are too trusting, respond to these schemes, and subsequently get burned.
Sometimes, we receive an email that appears to be from the IRS regarding a tax refund. There is a link to click, and from that point, you may be asked to type in your social security number, strictly for the sender to know that you are the right person. Or this link can take you to a site where a virus is quickly downloaded, and then your troubles really begin.
Here’s another area where seniors are targeted, due primarily to their desire to make their retirement years a little more comfortable. Scammers rely on this and schemes such as the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme, some alleged royalty from Nigeria requesting that you assist him/her in claiming funds in the US, and other financial schemes that are so complex, a Philadelphia lawyer couldn’t decipher them. The best advice here is the old adage, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”.
9. Reverse Mortgage Scams
Quite often, senior citizens who are retired, see their life savings dwindle away due to economic conditions, and because of this, their monthly income also is reduced. They have a certain amount of fixed monthly expenses, and to supplement the current income, they turn to their biggest asset, their home.
A reverse mortgage can be taken out, that doesn’t have to be paid back, as long as you live in the home, plus a couple of other conditions. This provides the homeowner with a fixed amount of monthly income, a line of credit, or a lump sum payment.
Once again, the con men come out from under their rocks and devise schemes to defraud the unknowing homeowner. A recent scheme in California reflected their elaborate cunning. A letter was sent on official looking stationery of the County Assessor’s office, that would show the homeowner’s property, and its current value. For a fee, the homeowner could have the property reassessed for a much lower figure, that would in effect, reduce the amount of the real estate tax bill. Sounded too good to be true…and it was.
Because of the economy and other factors, legitimate reverse mortgages have been increasing substantially. In the eleven year period through 2011, there has been an increase of over 1,300% in reverse mortgages taken out by seniors.
The scammers see this as well, and their schemes proliferate. I was reading in a national magazine a few weeks ago, about the life story of a reformed con man. When he was asked the question, “what scam would you promote now if you were back in the business?” His quick answer was “reverse mortgages...I could make millions of dollars in a short period of time”.
Lottery & Sweepstakes Scams
How many times have you received a telephone call saying that you have won a certain prize, but you needed to send a check for a certain amount of money to claim the prize? Always remember, there’s no such thing as a FREE lunch!
Another variation on this scheme is where the scammer will send you a check for the prize money and ask you to deposit it in your account. You are then instructed to wire out amounts for fees, taxes, etc. that clear your account immediately. After a few days, the prize check bounces, and the con men pocket those fees and taxes and you lose.
10. The Grandparent Scam
This scam is one that hits close to home, and one where the con man relies on the “heart of his victim”. One of my clients, an 83 year old lady, was awakened one afternoon from a nap, by a telephone call. The voice on the other end said “Hi grandma, do you know who this is?” The voice sounded a lot like her nephew from another state, and she answered, “Yes, you sound like my nephew Brian (name changed)”. At this point, the con man didn’t have to establish a fake identity, she did it for him.
He then went on to say that he was in Brazil on a student mission trip, and had an automobile accident. Because he was a foreigner, he went on to say, he was arrested and put in jail. In Brazil, he said, it takes about a year to come to trial, but if you have a local lawyer, he can pay a fee to the judge, and your case is heard immediately and you’re released.
This fake nephew gave this lady the telephone number of his alleged lawyer in Brazil and asked her to call him. She promptly called the number and said the man on the phone had an accent , & sounded legit. He told her that he needed a wire transfer for $5,000.00, and that it would cover his fee and the payment to the judge.
Without any further checking, she went to her bank with the wire instructions given to her, and had the funds wired to Brazil. After a couple of days, and not hearing from the nephew, she called his parents home. You can only imagine the shock when she was told that this nephew was there at home and not in Brazil. She called the local FBI office and filed a claim, and was told that they are investigating many similar claims. I put a copy of the FBI report in my file and at least she can deduct the amount as a casualty loss on her taxes.
This further reinforces our previous comments, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and don’t be so trusting on the telephone. In our home, the telephone doesn’t get answered unless we know the number and name of the caller, and it’s somebody that we know. Nothing is purchased or contributed by telephone, and the same applies to emails and other online schemes.