05 May 2014
Scamming Seniors: Don’t Be a Sitting Duck

Seniors are often targets for scam artists.  They often have financial resources, and they may trust a handshake and a smile as a “deal.”  Today, scammers come at seniors from all directions. If you or a loved one is living in retirement, here are some scams currently making the rounds.  Knowing what to look out for may help you or your family member avoid becoming a victim.

Healthcare scams are common. In one scheme, a “representative” from Medicare telephones seniors to “verify their information.” The unsuspecting senior provides all the information the scammer needs to create an online identity and compromise the senior’s credit, and even assets.

In other scams, doctors or clinics deliver sub-standard services and bill Medicare at exorbitant rates. Always ask to see your Medicare billing statement to make sure Medicare isn’t paying $1,000 for a five-minute visit with a nurse.

Drug scams are also common. Medicines can be expensive, and seniors may use off-shore or online “pharmacies” to save on prescription costs. Unfortunately, these unregulated companies may be selling drugs that contain dangerous substances that can make an existing condition even worse. Buy locally from a pharmacist you know and who knows you.

Funeral frauds, sadly, target seniors as easy “marks” – grieving family members who may not be in the best position to make good decisions. Unscrupulous funeral homes can turn a simple service into a costly event with numerous expensive add-ons that increase the cost of final expenses. When making funeral arrangements, bring a friend or relative with good business sense. Don’t let the loss of a loved one cost more than you choose to spend.

Fake anti-aging products appeal to our desire to look and feel younger, no matter what our age. Many scam artists sell greatly overpriced anti-aging creams and lotions to “remove those unsightly wrinkles!” Others offer miracle cures for age-related complaints like balding, impotence, or hearing loss.  If it sounds too good to be true, chances are, it isn’t true.

Internet fraud may take advantage of seniors’ lack of computer skills.  Everyone (including seniors) should have good anti-virus software to help protect their computer, and should know the basics of security when using email:

  • Scams are common on the Internet. Always be skeptical.
  • Never provide personal information online unless you initiated the contact.
  • Never provide personal information on an unsecure website page.
  • Do research before committing to anything online. Check the company, or the charity, using review websites that give impartial reviews of retailers, charities, and other associations seeking new customers, members, or donors.
  • Don’t download anything that shows up in a pop-up window – a window you didn’t ask to see. These are sometimes traps that download dangerous viruses to your computer.
  • If you don’t know who sent that email, don’t open it. A single infected email can cause major destruction to your computer, or help scammers steal your identity.
  • Set your spam filter to “High” to help eliminate the potential junk that can land in your email inbox.

It pays to be skeptical. Help protect yourself from scammers who prey on seniors.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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