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.
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one of the biggest scams out there today still is your local.... "CHIMNEY COMPANY"!!!!
they solicit you for a chimney cleaning and then 2 men come to your house and CLEAN you out!!
Whether it's false & unescessary repairs, way over inflated bill, stealing items from your basement, garage and yes even your prescription pills from the bathroom!!!
They have even been caught breaking your chimney (ie; cracking clay flue pipe, loosing bricks) THEN charging you to fix it! Believe it or not... half the time the chimney cleaning never gets done, the vacuum or the sweeping.
Please be very wary about daytime thiefs...watch and question their EVERY step!!
FYI~ this is all INSIDE information, having worked for several companies I know first hand......
The biggest "legal" scam is the reverse mortgage. Several of my friends have had their houses stolen by these scum. The contract is made to confuse and the second you are out of your house for a hospital visit - they come after the house. The fees are unbelievable!!! Interest rate is usury! and after they do you the "courtesy" of telling you YOU have to sell your house in 6 months or they take it - do they tell you that the only real time frame is 3 months and it is up to them to give you extensions. ONE MONTH AT A TIME - hope you don’t tell them you found a buyer - if you do, they get the info then swoop in like the vultures they are. They take the house to sell it themselves to the individual hosing the real owner AND the agent.
The Scammers and all the Spammers who post date rich old guys and date young ladies sites are the same TYPE of people.
MSN is giving the spammers and scammers a platform to do their business.
MSN needs to walk the talk...
I live with my 87 year old father and they have to go through me. I don't answer phones unless I recognize the id; if legit, the'll leave a message.
Also there is a scam saying the USPS has a package that they can,t deliver and the cost to keep it for 30 days and will cost $3.30 a day I have already reu a check on this with the post office and they said it was a scam and who ever sent it wants you to open your computer so they can get in, so CAUTION ON ANYTHING SENT TO YOU REGARDLESS OF WHO IT IS FROM.
The article is right on a lot of points. Many of these scams and more have been foisted on us since my husband and I have become seniors. If we wern't still sharp, I can see how someone less mentally able or too trusting would be a victim. We have beed invited out to lunch or dinner a multitude of times by so called investment councilers, (goes in the trash) . We get calls all the time supposedly from Cardmember Services to modify our credit card rate. Right..after they get all your personal informantion..
Lately we have had a bunch of calls offering a FREE, diabetes blood meter. Yessiree. Just get a prescription and they will send you one...and bill Medicare of course.. Telling them that you already have one doesn't stop them..The one you have is too old, or you need a spare. FYI, The blood meter manufacturers often offer free meters ..really free..because they make money on selling their test strips. Lately have been hearing from scooter companies. Bill Medicare of course! We are pummeled with charity calls, prescription drug offers, You name it, more trusting person could fall for these "offers". My advice, hang up the phone, tear up the mailed "offers".
Another scam I know of is the Save the dolphins, whales. sea turtles, ...etc
One of these operations is currently going on in the Tallahassee area. They send a group of people around to local neighborhoods hitting them up for donations to fight various causes. I went to apply for what I thought was an environmental job and was handed a brochure that stated various positions from research, web development, administrators and so forth but the only job they offered was for canvassers. They take a packet of various environmental magazines from door to door and offer memberships and magazine subscriptions in return for donations. They have three donation amounts that they are supposed to suggest but only offer the high end amounts of 150 to 300 dollars and tell the target client they will get subsequent material and membership in the mail. They use high pressure techniques on the elderly and from what I saw they use most of the money for business and travel expenses while donating about 1 dollar per subscription toward the causes they represent. These businesses rent offices for a short period of time and change the name of the cause from year to year. They currently are based in Tallahassee under the cause of fighting against oil pollution.
The so-called Civic Council has scammed tens of millions of dollars from senior citizens by mailing them out $1 checks and asking them not to cash the checks but rather send the checks back along with $19 + so the Civic Council can help "keep Social Security out of the hands of illegal aliens" and "fight" other phony causes for senior citizens ...and this multi-million dollar enterprise continues to get away with it. Just Google "Consumer Affairs and Civic Council" to read an article about these guys.
Another scam is an automated call saying you can get you credit card interest rated lowered and can speak to an agent by pressing the number "1". Since I receive these calls about every week, (I always hang up on automated calls within 3 seconds) I decided I would block my number and press the "1" just to see what happened. An "agent" thanked me for calling and I ask what company he was with to which he replied he worked for the clearing house which represented all the major credit cards. Then he said "do you still owe more than $4,000.00 on your credit card"? I said "NO! and you can take this number and.........click, he was gone. BEWARE!!! accept NO automated calls.
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