Protecting Your Savings: A Look into Popular Scams
Mrs. Jameson lived alone. All of her children lived out of state and visited several times a year. Mrs. Jameson values her independence; however, she is suffering from mild memory impairment. Once, while shopping at a local grocery store, she was approached by a well dressed gentlemen. The man stated that her car appeared to be overheating. He then stated, he would be happy to fix it for her at her residence for a minimal fee. Mrs. Jameson was thrilled by this gentleman’s observation and willingness to help. She agreed and he followed her to her home. Once she arrived at home the man advised Mrs. Jameson that it would cost $500.00 for the repair. He would require a check prior to the completed work to order parts. Mrs. Jameson agreed and wrote the gentleman a check. He left to “retrieve the parts” but, never returned to complete the repair.
This story, while fictional, is a common occurrence. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, “People who grew up in the 1930’s, 1940’s, or 1950’s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say ‘no’ (FBI, 2018).” Like the car repair, other schemes exist to exploit older adults, such as the telephone call that the individual receives informing them that their loved one has been involved in an accident. Or the handyman who states he noticed a leaky roof while driving by an older adult’s residence. Whatever the incident may be, the individual has trusted the source and provided monetary compensation for a product or service that was not required or did not exist.
According to the National Council on Aging, there are 10 prevalent scams that are targeting older adults:
- Medicare/Health Insurance Scams
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
- Funeral & Cemetery Scams
- Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products
- Telemarketing/Phone Scams
- Internet Fraud
- Investment Scams
- Homeowners & Reverse Mortgage Schemes
- Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams
- The Grandparents Scheme.
So, the question arises. How can an individual protect him or herself?
- Do not provide your financial or personal information to any one you do not know.
- Do not provide any personal or financial information from anyone that sends the request via email. Even if the email appears to come from your financial institution. Your bank will never send you an email to verify your information. Call your financial institution immediately to report the issue.
- Talk to trusted sources, such as a friend, relative, financial advisor, or attorney prior to agreeing to any product or service.
- Do not pay an individual prior to a completed service.
- Always ask for a business card and service agreement from anyone stating a repair is needed. Talk with family and advisors prior to entering into any agreement.
- Never send money to an unknown entity.
- Do not send money to someone that calls claiming to be a family member, such as a grandson. Call family members to determine if there is truly an issue.
- Gather information on the individual such as name, telephone number, address, title, and organization that he or she works for.
- Do not purchase medications online.
- Do not provide information to individuals claiming to be the IRS. Call the IRS directly to determine if there is an issue that needs to be resolved.
- Immediately alert law enforcement regarding the issue that occurred. These scams are considered a criminal offence.
As a Certified Care Manager, I have worked with individuals and their families to educate on the prevalence of scams and what can be done to avoid becoming a victim.
It is imperative to remember that these schemes are a crime. Individuals often do not want to report the crime because he or she is embarrassed that it has occurred. However, the more law enforcement is aware of the issues, the better chance that these individuals will be caught. Preventing this type of abuse is the first step in allowing a happy and safe community for us all.
FBI. (2018). Fraud Against Seniors. http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors
National Council on Aging (2018). Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors.
—Liz Heape-Caldwell, BS, MBA, CMC
Liz has been with Elder Options, Inc. for over 17 years. She is a credentialed Care Manager and the Vice President of the company. She enjoys getting to know her clients and their families, to determine which course of action would best for the individual. Her love for Care Management comes from being able to assist others regardless of age or socioeconomic status.