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.
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I had some knock down drag out fights with my grandmother over lottery scams who took those “You have won $$$$” claims quite seriously. My dad and I finally had to take control of her checking account.
I guess this is why those telephone parasites call the elderly…they’re the most prone group due to physical problems and aging minds that are too trusting.
Reverse mortgages are so heavily promoted to older people I guess any offer or request sounds legit. Very informative list. With my parents approaching the scammer target age, I’m going to forward this to them to make sure they’re being vigilant.
This is the latest scam by con men and they bilk a lot of seniors with fees into the thousands of dollars.
I get phishing emails daily, I have no idea where they even get my details from. Number ten is disgusting, its sad to think people actually do that- for them to speak to the person over the phone and hear their voice and still go ahead with it is awful. Great post, it’s articles like this that get the message across and hopefully prevent these things from happening to more people
It’s a wonder that people still fall for some of these but, as you said, it happens every day. i think the laws against this should be much stricter if the crime is focused on the elderly.
Thanks for posting this. My father fell victim to a phishing scam a little while ago – hook line and sinker. A company called up and told him that they were from Microsoft, and they needed his logins to check something on his computer (which I had diligently set up for him). Of course, he gave the information freely, and once they hacked into his computer they were able to get into his financial account information. Of course, it was handled as quickly as possible, but not without a lot of hassle and embarrasment!
I try to tell my grandparents about scams like this but they get so imaginative that I can barely keep up myself. Finally told them to not give out any information without some details no matter what
It is a concern that people will prey on the elderly in this way. I have encouraged all the elderly people in our family to call one of us and go over anything offered or asked for before they commit to sending or giving anything.
Some people have completely lost their self respect. How could anyone do such things and still respect themselves? They are just as bad as any murderer/hardened criminal, if not worse. They must never have been taught that the only honest way to make money is to have a legit job…. have their parents taught them proper money values? Likely not….
All scams that needed to be brought to attention. But I noticed one that is becoming common isn’t listed, the ‘household repair or handyman scams’. I can be roofers, plumbers, carpet cleaners, furnace repair or servicing, or whatever. These supposed tradesmen preys on elderly who still live in their homes. Once called to provide a service they con the home owner into having unnecessary repairs or servicing done, often thousands of dollars worth. If they do the work at all, it is of poor quality and they never back up their work when problems need to be fixed.
Thanks for pointing that scam out and we plan to put up a fresh list shortly and it will be included. In the neighborhood where I used to live, a scam there was done by gypsies doing driveway coating. They knocked on your door, and said that they had sealer left over from a previous job, and for X dollars cash, they would put it on yours. Always a ripoff.
I now have power of attorney over my grandmother’s financial affairs. She has little, but what she has she needs to live on, so I protect her from the swarms of parasites that were once hounding her. I had cards made up that she gives to anyone trying to sell her anything. The card states that I’m the person legally entitled to handle her affairs, and that without my express authorization, no financial commitment my grandmother enters into is legally binding. We had a voice recording added to her phone too with the same information. She starts the recording whenever a telemarketer starts to make his or her pitch and hangs up. The recording continues to run even though she’s hung up, ending with my contact information. Since we took these actions the vultures that were calling her have stopped, leaving her a much happier woman.
Thanks for the feedback Kimberly. It looks like you have your grandmother covered quite well. I wish that more individuals were concerned like you and kept the parasites and thieves at bay. Well done!
This is so sad, I can’t get over why people would do such a thing to other people. Especially seniors.
I have tried to help an elderly couple who live across the street, numerous times in situations like this.
The same things happen to my father in law, and it’s such a sad thing to see happen. I don’t know how many times I have read police logs or even just newspaper reports of problems like this, with warnings. Which is great! Except for they always have a name or a couple’s name included that says how much money they lost in these tragic events.
I wish there were better ways to help protect them from things like this, and at least get the warnings out. I know most don’t usually sit on Facebook and see warnings online.
This makes me so angry that people would do this. I am in my late twenties and i have had persons try to do this to me. Luckily, we have three different phones in our house and I had my spouse call the relative to make sure. Afterwards, I too, called the FBI but in reality, there isn’t much that they can do and for every identity thief that they put away, three more pop up.
Someone has to be the lowest of the low to prey on the elderly, but sadly we live in a time when low life types are in abundance. It’s great that you are taking the time to inform people of these scams.
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I did not know that there are people who does bad things with seniors as well. It’s really painful.
This is only the tip of the ice berg. As soon as a con man sees an opportunity to profit in some way, he will take it with no regard to the harm he may do to individuals.