This guest blog post is contributed by Boomerater, a free online decision guide for Baby Boomers with advice to help you find home care providers, financial advisors, and more. Seniors for Living’s communities are displayed in Boomerater’s comprehensive Assisted Living directory.
A new Boomerater post appears here every other Friday. This week Boomerater explores scams and cons that target seniors.
Scamming seniors is big business. Fraud schemes by con artists have devastated the lives of more than 7.3 million Americans over the age of 65. The reasoning is simple. Americans near and past retirement have more assets. In fact, more than 50 percent of American owned assets are owned by seniors. It’s no wonder that 30 percent of the successful fraud market is directly targeted at older baby boomers and seniors.
Crafty con artists prey on seniors not only because they are profitable targets, but easy targets as well. Seniors are usually home, they tend to answer the phone and have a more lenient schedule, so they are not as likely to hang up. Seniors worry about finances and are more easily duped with “get rich quick” schemes during times of financial strain. Add to that, some seniors are alone, away from family or loved ones, and may spend more time looking for interesting ideas and activities to keep them busy. With age, people become kinder or more trusting of others, and perhaps more likely to believe a person who appears to need help. Seniors who have deteriorating physical or cognitive skills are even more vulnerable. Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that only about 1 in 100 cases of senior fraud are ever reported.
Caregivers, shady sales people and scam-artists are the most common offenders. Statistics show that cases of caregiver fraud are on the rise. Seniors can have unusually close relationships with those who are entrusted to help care for their needs, enabling caregivers to scam unknown amounts of cash from seniors. These types of scams can go on for years unnoticed. As long as the victim doesn’t suspect or believe that their caregiver would hurt them, and doesn’t report the fraud when they do discover it, the fraud continues.
Scams can be as simple as a mailer, or as dangerous as armed assault. By understanding different types of scams you can protect yourself from becoming a victim. Here are three of the most common:
The Distress Scam
A prevalent email scam making its way across the country is from someone claiming to be an old friend or family member sending a desperate plea from a foreign country. He (and his family, girlfriend, roommate, etc.) have been robbed while traveling. They lost everything: money, airline tickets, credit cards, etc. They are emailing to ask you to wire funds to help pay for their airline ticket home, on a plane scheduled to leave in just a few hours. A variation on this scam is that of a grandchild calling to say they have been arrested and need bail money. A grandparent who has not heard their grandchild’s voice recently may fall for this one while trying to help out the family. Do not send money! A quick way to know if a phone scam is legit is to ask a question to the caller that only your relative would know (not dates or addresses.) At this point the scammer will probably hang up. Before wiring money anywhere call a trusted family member or your lawyer to have them investigate the legitimacy of any such request.
The Parking Lot Nightmare
Here’s another way you can easily become a victim. You’ve been shopping at the mall and return to your car with your packages. You put everything in the car, start the engine and prepare to back up when you notice a flyer taped to your back window obstructing your rear view. You get out to remove it, and when you do the carjacker hops in and drives off in your car. Hopefully you only lost your purse and purchases… not a grandchild secured in a car seat.
Product or Merchandise Fraud
These are door-to-door scams where a scammer approaches a senior at their home, or a public setting like a park, and offers counterfeit or fake merchandise for an “unbelievable price.” The merchandise, such as gold chains, expensive watches, handbags etc., may seem to be real, but will later fade, tarnish or break revealing it to be a fake. The victim will not have paid much, but it will be far more than the piece is actually worth.
This article covers just a few of the scams and schemes that target seniors. For information about several others read the full article “Don’t Get Scammed” on Boomerater.com