From Newark Police
Senior citizens continue to be prime targets of con artists. They are more likely to have a nest egg or own their homes, making them fertile ground for financial scams. Seniors may find it hard to keep up with the quick pace of technology, giving scammers a new assortment of ways to attack They often don’t know who to report a scam to, and therefore feel like helpless victims with nowhere to go.
The only way for the elderly to protect them-selves and their finances is to be aware, and to be skeptical when they are presented with all types of deals and opportunities. Here are some very common frauds being perpetrated against the senior citizen population.
The Grandparent Scheme
A senior receives a call from someone claiming to be his or her grandchild. The caller has an elaborate story about needing money for school, or claims to be the victim of a car accident, or needs money for a class trip. Currently, a common story is that the caller is overseas and has been mugged and had all his money and documentation stolen. The caller will often claim to be too embarrassed to ask his parents, and plead that the grandparents not contact them. The caller then convinces the senior to wire funds as soon as possible. There has been an epidemic of the grandparent scam across the United States; as a result, older Americans should be on high alert. If you receive a call like this and are unsure of whom the person is, ask for further information. Verify with the parents. And never wire money to anyone unless you are 100 percent certain of who it is and have verified his or her information.
The Fake Lottery or Sweepstakes
While this scheme is not limited to seniors, they make up an overwhelming percentage of victims. A scammer gathers contact information such as an email address, phone number or mailing address. The scammer then contacts an elderly person claiming that the person has won a prize, and the scammer simply needs a credit card to process the reward. The recipient may be enticed to buy a subscription or pay to enter a lottery in order to be eligible for a sweepstakes. Of course, no subscription is ever honored, and any cash submitted for a sweepstakes goes right into the hands of the scammer. It is illegal for companies to require you to buy anything to enter a sweepstakes. Shred any offer that asks you to do so. Never give your credit card number in order to claim a prize. This will compromise your information and jeopardize your financial security.
The Credit Card Fraud Call
In this scam, a caller claims to be from the senior's credit card company and states that a fraudulent charge has been placed on the card. The person may even present information such as a current billing address and the last five numbers on the senior's credit card. The caller then asks for the three-digit verification code on the back of the card in order to reverse the charges. Once scammers receive this, they have complete access to the credit card. Never give out your bank or credit card information under these circumstances. Hang up, call the phone number on the back of your card and ask customer service to verify whether there is a fraudulent charge. Alert them if it turns out a scam has been attempted.
Numerous scams target seniors' need for prescription drugs. Seniors may receive offers to buy medicine at 50 percent off or in bulk via mail, email or unsolicited phone calls. The reality is the offer may require a hefty membership fee to get started, or the fake company asks for the senior's credit card number. The drugs often never arrive, and if they do, they may be of questionable quality. There are many discount prescription drug programs offered through health insurance carriers that are useful and legitimate. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a program that he or she can vouch for.
Who to Turn To
If you are a victim of one of these scams, make sure to report it immediately. Alert your bank any time you are suspicious or feel you may have been taken advantage of and call the police for assistance. For more information and resources about elderly scams, go to the following sites:
- Consumer Fraud Reporting: http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/
- FBI: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors
- Stop Fraud: http://www.stopfraud.gov/