5 Common Elder Scams Every Senior Should Know

Elder FraudUnfortunately, scams targeting the elderly are on the rise and fraudulent telemarketers targeting seniors account for up to 80% of their calls.

Did you know that our senior population is expected to double by 2060?

81% of seniors are also homeowners, and they are more likely to live alone—a staggering 12.5 million older adults.

It’s clear to see why seniors are the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to fraud and abuse.

Today we will be going over common elder scams that every senior should know.

Getting educated about how they work is the first step towards prevention.

Our comprehensive guide includes information on:

  • Medicare Fraud
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
  • Funeral Scams
  • Telemarketing Scams
  • Reverse Mortgage Fraud
  • Lottery Scams
  • Grandparent Scams

Learn about all of the warning signs and prevent your loved one from being the victim of an elder scam.

1. Medicare Fraud

Since every U.S. citizen is eligible for Medicare at the age of 65, scammers do little to no work at all in researching what type of insurance your loved one has.

Here are the most common cases of Medicare fraud:

  • Callers posing as representatives from Medicare asking for personal information
  • Medicare number can be stolen and used to provide services for someone else
  • Scammers delivering “free” products that are then billed to Medicare
  • Medical providers can bill for unnecessary services or services that were never received

Prevention Tips

  • Keep your Medicare number safe
  • Review your statements regularly
  • Never sign blank insurance forms
  • Don’t accept “free” supplies

2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Did you know that over 57% of those 65 years and older want to do healthcare over the internet? Just as seniors are susceptible to fraudsters and scams in real life, fake online pharmacies with counterfeit drugs are a rising concern.

There are several risks of purchasing counterfeit prescription drugs:

  • Placebo or medically worthless drugs
  • Disguised as another drug
  • Improper dosages
  • Weakened drugs
  • Drugs that haven’t been approved by the FDA
  • Improper storage and shipment

Since 2010, nearly over 1,400 adverse reactions due to counterfeit prescription drugs have been reported to the FDA.

AARP says, “If a price seems too good to be true, don’t buy.”

Prevention Tips

  • Use a regular pharmacy (CVS, Walgreens, Local)
  • Websites should be:
    • Located in the United States (with a locatable office and phone number)
    • Licensed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
    • Have a listed Licensed Pharmacist to answer any questions
    • Requires you to provide a prescription

3. Telemarketing Fraud

Phone scams are often hard to trace—and many seniors are victim to telemarketing fraudsters.

There are several ways a scammer will try and sell you bogus products and services:

  • Pressuring the senior into making a quick decision in order to receive their “lottery winnings” or “free” vacation by sending the scammer a money fee or risk losing everything to a runner up
  • Using other people who are in on the scam to pose as authority figures like lawyers and bankers to validify their fraud
  • Making the product or service look too good for the senior to pass up like low cost health care solutions

Did you know that fake charities also solicit seniors for donations?

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the FBI estimated that over 4,000 websites were set up to receive donations. These websites were hosted on foreign servers and used similar sounding names as legitimate charity organizations to trick seniors into making a fake donations. Seniors can expect an uptick in fake charity solicitation right after a natural disaster or man-made disaster as these fraudsters will rush to capitalize on tragedy to receive money.

Callers may even pose as a senior’s grandchild on the phone.

The Grandparent Scheme” is when the fraudster will call a senior pretending they are one of their long lost grandchildren that they haven’t spoken to in a long time. Usually, the scam involves a fake accident that never happened or “legal troubles” like needing bail money.

Prevention Tips

  • Never send money over the phone
  • Watch out for aggressive sales tactics
  • Verify a person’s or company’s identity with a simple online search
  • Use websites like www.give.org and www.charitynavigator.org to see if a charity organization is legitimate

4. Internet Fraud

While young adults are more likely to use the internet, seniors are adopting the technology at much higher rates.

82% of seniors also see smartphones as a liberating experience.

However, scammers are well aware of this and are looking to prey upon seniors online as well.

Email phishing is a way online fraudsters trick seniors into giving up important personal information. A legitimate looking email will be sent to the victim’s inbox posing as a well known company and either direct seniors to a website “phishing” for their information. Clicking a suspicious link can install a virus such as keyloggers—a type of virus that can be used to track what a senior types into their keyboard. Scammers can use this to steal passwords and credit card information.

Prevention Tips

  • Downloading free anti-virus software like Avira or Malwarebytes can help remove malicious files from a senior’s computer
  • Never click on suspicious links
  • Be wary of web addresses that appear to be legitimate but imitates real company websites
  • Check online reviews of companies before buying
  • Is there a phone number or physical address that you can verify

5. Funeral Fraud

Often at the most vulnerable point after a devastating loss of a loved one, a widowed senior and their family can be victim to funeral fraud.

A fraudster will try and rope a senior into paying for services and items that are either unnecessary or overpriced. Many times, they prey on their victim’s unfamiliarity of the funeral process.

See these tips from the FTC about preventing funeral fraud:

  • What are you paying for? Are you buying only merchandise, like a casket and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?
  • What happens to the money you’ve prepaid? States have different requirements for handling funds paid for prearranged funeral services.
  • What happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid and put into a trust account?
  • Are you protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business?
  • Can you cancel a contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?
  • What happens if you move to a different area or die while away from home? Some prepaid funeral plans can be transferred, but often at an added cost.
  • Be sure to tell your family about the plans you’ve made and where your documents are located.

Other Prevention Tips for Common Elder Scams

  • Consider becoming your loved one’s power of attorney if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to keep an eye on their finances
  • Due diligence like using Google or Bing to find more information about the person or company can prevent your loved one from becoming a victim of a scam
  • Caregivers can help seniors answer calls and monitor visitors at their home
  • Guardianship can be granted by courts to protect a senior with cognitive deficits either by a family member or professional individual like an elder attorney

Reporting Fraud

If you or a loved one suspects a fraud attempt, you can report any instances online at www.stopfraud.gov.

How Are You Protecting Your Loved One Against Elder Scams?

Let us know in the comments below!