7/6/2012 6:04 PM ET|
10 scams targeting seniors
Criminals who prey on the elderly are taking advantage of trust and naiveté. Recognize the top scams and know how to stay a step ahead of the bad guys.
Financial scams targeting seniors are grabbing a larger share of the headlines these days, as law enforcement and government, including the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, seek to squash this growing crime.
Almost daily, there's a new ploy that emerges, seeking to tap into the large amount of money older Americans have in their bank accounts.
"I call it the 'scam du jour syndrome'," says Bob Blancato, the national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition. "New ones pop up on a regular basis," often tied to local or national events, investments or the well-being of a family member.
Annual losses from elder financial fraud jumped 12% to $2.9 billion in 2010 from $2.6 billion in 2008, according to the MetLife Study of Financial Elder Abuse.
One in 20 people ages 60 and older reported being the victim of some kind of financial abuse in the prior year when a survey was done in 2010. However, only one in 44 such crimes were reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association, a nonprofit. And of those that are reported, many are not investigated because of the difficulties prosecuting them.
In the interest of spotting scams before they happen, MSN Money asked some of the country's top experts on elder financial abuse to identify common scams and provide advice on protecting elderly people's assets. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most prevalent scams.
Grandparent scams. Often, scam artists prey on a victim's love for and isolation from their relatives. Many will call an older person, whispering "Grandma?" and mumbling so that the older person will volunteer a name. Once they've established an identity, they claim to have lost their wallet and/or passport in a foreign country or to have been arrested and in need of bail money.
Free lunch investment seminars. Most of these schemes involve selling people on unsound investments or other things they don't need, simply to earn high commissions or fees.
It might be worthless real estate, rare coins or investments that aren't right for people in a later stage of life.
Among the products that unscrupulous brokers are pushing at these lunches are variable-rate annuities, which are not appropriate for short-term goals.
What these investments peddled to seniors do have are high fees and charges, says Lisa Catalano, the director of the Securities Arbitration Clinic at St. John's University School of Law.
"I had a client who was told that putting your money in one (of these annuities) is like putting money into a checking account," Catalano says. "'You can take out your money any time,' he told her."
Many of these investments are sold by people with official-sounding designations that mean nothing and can be obtained by paying a fee.
Medicare fraud. Every U.S. citizen who is 65 or older qualifies for Medicare. Because it's universal, it's easier for con artists to target. In some of these scams, people pose as Medicare representatives to persuade older people to provide their personal information, or crooks provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics in order to get their information, bill Medicare and pocket the money, according to the National Council on Aging.
Bogus sweepstakes. "Congratulations! You've just own $10,000!" In many sweepstakes scams, you get the promise of big money, but you have to wire some of your own to claim it, allegedly to cover things such as insurance, upfront taxes or shipping and handling fees. If you've truly won, you won't be asked to pay. And you shouldn't have to buy things to enter.
Dialing for dollars. Telemarketing scams change as often as news headlines, but some of the most common lures are charity scams, which can come in waves after a big local or national disaster.
Another popular call -- often made at night or early in the morning when people are off guard -- is the fake credit card call. This call alerts individuals to the fact that a card has been stolen or used in some way that has affected their credit score. The caller then tries to confirm sensitive financial information, including address, and credit card and Social Security numbers.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
I suspect certain people have always been a bit gullible, they didn’t get this way just because they turned 65.
You forgot the...GOLD BUYERS...SCAMS
THEY SAY THEY PAY ALOT FOR YOUR GOLD IF YOU SEND IT TO THEM
BUT YOU DONT HEAR FROM THEM OR THEY PAY VARY LITTLE.
THE BUYERS THAT COME TO TOWN OFFERING TO PAY TOP PRICES
THEY LIE TO THE SELLER ABOUT GOLD PRICE AND WHAT THE ITEM IS WORTH
AMD LIE ABOUT DIMONDS AND OTHER STONES.COINS.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY GET AWAY WITH IT BECAUES ALL THEY HAVE TO DO
IS MAKE A " OFFER." THAT IS THE WAY THEY STEAL IT FROM SENIORS
My wife fell for one of these scams last year that cost me a bunch of money. Some guy in Jamaica called
her and told her he had a new B.M.W. car waiting for her somewhere near our home, but she had to send money
to someone in Virginia to have the car released to her.. Unknown to me she sent him the money, but she
never received any car. I did not find out about this until sometime later. We are elderly people (85 & 81) and
this bum took advantage of her weakness. I don,t think she will do that again, at least I hope so. I had to
quit work to make sure she is well monitored.
One thing more, if it is a lottery or a sweepstakes, don't you have to buy a ticket? Didn' buy one? You could not have won.
Never give any infomation on the phone. If they ask tell them "You have my name and phone number, get the rest."
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