The National Council on Aging (NCOA) recently published a Top 10 financial frauds list — something that should not surprise anyone who gives any attention to his or her investments, retirement accounts and other income sources after leaving the workforce.
The perception is that older adults have a good nest egg in their accounts and therefore, they become targets.
Unfortunately, strangers are not the majority of perpetrators of elder abuse, including financial fraud, that is directed towards seniors. Most perpetrators are family, adult children, grandchildren and so on.
Top 10 List
- Medicare/Health Insurance Scams — no surprise. There’s a lot of waste in this area, much of it contributed to fraud committed by using a senior’s information to bill Medicare for items and services that are not necessary, and sometimes never received. At times, unscrupulous doctors have been prosecuted for receiving kickbacks after signing off on services or medical equipment. Crooks may pose as Medicare representatives to obtain personal information.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs. This one can be dangerous since many are available online. Besides paying for something that won’t help their illness, the victims could be taking something detrimental to their condition.
- Funeral and Cemetery Scams. This can involve someone showing up during the funeral or viewing, claiming the deceased owed a debt; or a funeral director may claim the only cremation casket you may use is the most expensive. (Remember, cardboard will burn!) Don’t sign off on everything until you do your research — even in emotionally traumatic times.
- Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products. We all want to look as young as I do! Mother Nature takes her course regardless of what you do. Fake Botox is a thing these days, so know what you are putting on and in yourself!
- Telemarketing and Phone Fraud. Here are your key words for this one: Hang up. Yep, that’s it. Unfortunately, there are telemarketers who deliver smooth conversation to a lonely senior who may get some level of comfort from someone to talk on the phone. Don’t fall for investment or charity pitches over the phone. Nothing involving your money should ever be decided quickly over the phone. Take time and research.
- Internet Fraud. Talk about a wide scope of fraud. It could be anything involving access of your personal information online. Don’t buy expensive pop-up or anti-virus programs online without consulting a computer professional. Don’t assume e-mails with fancy logos are legit. These can be scams. Again, take time and verify with someone else. Another opinion is always a good move.
- Investments. Hopefully, you have a financial advisor looking after your money and retirement. Don’t fall for quick-money returns. Remember, that ambassador in some far-away country, the one willing to give you a few million for allowing him to use your bank account, does not exist. It is some schmuck in an internet café trying to swindle you. Go with what got you to your retirement point — solid decisions backed by financial advice from a professional.
- Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage. That equity is your reward for your home’s investment and property value. It is also a goal for fraudsters to take it from you. The National Council on Aging pointed out a tax scam in California where fake letters, supposedly from the county assessor’s office, were sent to homeowners offering a reassessment of the property value and tax status. This, of course, involved a fee. Beware of opportunities targeting your equity. This includes reverse-mortgage solicitations. Like always, take time, ask questions and research.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams — Ignore them. Unless Ed McMahon rises from the grave and appears with your Publishers Clearing House check, your best course is to discard random lottery-winning junk mail. I have won the Spanish Lottery, not once, but twice! Over one hundred million dollars! I keep asking for the check, but they’re taking their time about it.
- Grandparent Scam. I’ve talked about this one until I’m blue in the face. Checklist: If your grandson calls to say he’s in another country or even state, in trouble and does not want mom and dad to know, then this will be your screaming clue to call mom and dad — because it’s a fake.
Don’t forget: all of you made it this point in your lives because of your common sense and good judgement…except for me. I just got lucky.
Don’t lose those qualities. Remember, you never get something for nothing!