Seniors: Be on
high alert for scams
By Jason Alderman
I look forward to the day when we no longer need to warn senior citizens about scams designed to separate them from their hard-
• They’re more likely to have a nest egg, own their home and have good credit.
• Seniors are less likely to report fraud because they don’t know where to report it, don’t realize they’ve been scammed, or are too ashamed at having been duped – possibly fearing they won’t be trusted to manage their own finances going forward.
• When elderly victims do report crimes, they often make poor witnesses because of faulty memory.
• Seniors are more susceptible to products promising increased wealth, cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-
Be wary, even if callers appear legitimate. Caller ID “spoofers” pretending to represent your bank, credit card company or government agencies may try to trick you into revealing personal information under the pretext of fixing a security breach. When in doubt, hang up and contact the organization yourself.
Other common telemarketing scams include:
• You’ve supposedly won a free prize but are asked to pay for handling, postage or taxes. By law, you never have to pay for any legitimate prize.
• The “Grandparent Scam,” where someone pretending to be your grandchild calls in a panic, claiming to have been arrested or injured (often abroad) and asking you to wire them money – and not tell their parents because they’re embarrassed.
• Soliciting funds for fake charities, especially after natural disasters.
• Companies offering seniors free medical equipment or services. After you provide your Medicare number, they forge a doctor’s signature and bill Medicare for unneeded goods or services you never actually receive.
• Some particularly brazen thieves will even offer to help you recover money you’ve lost to other scammers (who are often part of the same operation).
• The offer sounds too good to be true.
• You must make a decision “right now” because the offer will expire soon.
• Claims that you are one of just a few people eligible for the offer.
• Your credit card number is requested for verification. Never provide credit card or other personal information by phone, letter or email unless you made the initial contact.
• You are urged to provide money quickly and not given time to consider the offer.
• There is no risk. All investments have some risk, except for U.S. Government obligations.
• They refuse to provide detailed written information.
• You are asked to trust the telemarketer. Like your mother always said, “Don’t trust strangers.”
(Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs. To Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney)