Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors

NCOA, National Council on Aging

Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered “the crime of the 21st century.”  Why?  Because seniors are thought to have a significant amount of money sitting in their accounts.  Financial scams also often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they’re considered a “low-risk” crime.  However, they’re devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a very vulnerable position with little time to recoup their losses.  It is not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse.  And it is not always strangers who perpetrate these crimes.  Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.

Review the list below, so you can identify a potential scam:

Health Care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud

In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Most commonly, counterfeit drug scams operate on the internet, where seniors increasingly go to find better prices on specialized medications.  The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict even more harm.  This scam can be hard on the body and the wallet.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams

The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors.

One approach, scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower.  Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts.  Another tactic of disreputable funeral homes is to capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the considerable cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill. An example, funeral directors will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of funeral services, is necessary even when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.

Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products

In a society bombarded with images of the young and beautiful, it’s not surprising that some older people feel the need to conceal their age in order to participate more fully in social circles and the workplace.  After all, 60 is the new 40, right?  It is in this spirit that many older Americans seek out new treatments and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, putting them at risk of scammers. Whether it ‘s fake Botox (like the one in Arizona) or completely bogus homeopathic remedies that do absolutely nothing, there is money in the anti-aging business.

Telemarketing 

Perhaps the most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are incredibly hard to trace.