Why bring this up as we head toward the start of the holiday season? Because THIS is a time of year when we are most likely to see important friends and family. Having these blog posts handy, printing them out and leaving them with a parent or friend could make all the difference!
Discuss now, read later, share with others… whatever you do, it is SOMETHING and it could save a great deal of heartache for someone who might otherwise fall victim.
Last month we looked at some of the most frequent frauds and scams directed at older adults – Click Here. Because we were only able to scratch the surface it seemed smart that we take a look at a few more. Let’s get started.
THE FAKE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH – Let’s face it we all want to look great, feel young and vital and remain healthy and free from pain for as many years as possible. The older we get the more susceptible we become to fraudsters making false claims and selling products and services designed to strip us of our dignity and hard-won financial resources. Things that make us look young, get rich and feel great need to be examined closely. From Botox scams, bogus cancer treatment centers and phony prescription drug companies – we need to be wary. ALWAYS – Remember to take extra care and caution when signing up for products or services that require your credit card or bank information – especially if the company contacted you first! It may seem legit, however, sometimes these products and services are simply a front for gathering your financial data. If you have questions or concerns, make sure to talk to friends and family before making a purchase. In this digital age, there is SO much we don’t know. We are FAR too trusting and don’t know what we don’t know! The bad guys and gals have become VERY clever. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question! ALL questions become smart ones the minute they are asked!
REVERSE MORTGAGE SCAMS & INVESTMENT SCHEMES – Financial insecurity often due to limited retirement planning or mounting medical expenses can make older home-owners a ripe target for reverse mortgage scams. This con may start with a very official looking letter arriving in your mailbox – one that looks like it’s from an important government office. The amount of publicly available information about properties can make for very personalized and convincing correspondence. These details can make the victim think it is a legitimate offer to reassess the property value and reduce the related tax burden. Reverse mortgage scams can ultimately lead homeowners to exchange their property title for a promised sum of money. Simple as that!
Investment scams can take the form of Ponzi schemes, think Bernie Madoff and all of the people he was able to defraud. Or, it may involve the purchase of high-end, tech equipment with promises of leveraging the technology to make you rich. In reality, the equipment is antiquated but with enough bells and whistles to make it plausible. Add a good story and you have a classic invest and get rich quick scheme! Investment scams may also come in the form of a paid job later in life where the older, highly-educated, upper management worker is REALLY brought into the company as a way to fund the business and keep it afloat. Desperation makes us do the darndest things! ALWAYS – Remember, if the deal or return on investment sounds too good to be true, if a friend or stranger sets up the interaction, or if you are feeling a sense of financial vulnerability or desperation, it is important that you risk the potential embarrassment and talk to a friend or loved one before signing documents or making any important decision about your home or hard earned money.
PHONE A FRAUD – Telemarketing and phone scams are on the rise and still one of the most common ways to initiate a fraud. Have you read the story about my friend’s mother and the way she was scammed on the phone? If not, there’s a link at the end of this post. It is definitely worth a read! The thing about phone scams is that there’s no paper trail. This makes them extremely difficult to trace. There are times when the scam may begin with something as innocuous as a wrong number that turns into a friendly conversation and leads to an “opportunity.”
There are different types of phone frauds and telemarketing scams. You mau be told that a friend or relative has been in an accident or arrested and in need of money. Fake charities often spring up after natural disasters and target seniors who see the need for humanitarian aid on the news. There is also something referred to as “the pigeon drop.” Here, the fraudster tells you that they have found a large sum of money and they offer to split the money with you if you will help them in some way. A substantial sum of money is dangled as a juicy carrot in order to get the victim to make a “good-faith” payment along the way. This particular con can get very elaborate and involve other scammers posing as lawyers or bankers. ALWAYS – STOP. It is important to stop. Take a breath. Phone a friend. Remember that these con artists will create all types of important deadlines in order to keep you focused on what THEY want you to do. The more this happens the more important it is to stop. If it starts to feel like a runaway train of opportunity, you can pretty much count on the fact that it is a fraud.
EMAIL AND PHISHING SCAMS – What on earth is phishing? Since the dawn the Internet phishing scams have become a way of life. Very often they start as a simple email message that appears to come from a trusted brand or service provider. It seems innocent enough, all they want to do is update or verify some personal account information. Then and there, or over time, these scammers gain enough access to your information that they are able to steal your identity or sell the information for use in a different scam down the road. Very often an element of fear is added when the email appears to originate from the IRS or another government office. ALWAYS – If someone else initiates email, if it sounds too good to be true, if you are being asked for information like your Social Security number, bank account information or to confirm answers to security questions – RUN! This is a CLASSIC email phishing scam!
Where to Start?
If you have questions about how to protect an aging relative from losing their hard-earned money to fraud, or you feel overwhelmed because a loved one passed away without benefit of a will or trust, call to my Los Gatos office at (408) 376-2755 to request an appointment.
You are welcome to Print this Free 30 Minute Legal Consultation Certificate.
Let’s get some of those questions answered!
Read about a Senior Scam that touched close to home for a friend of mine – Click Here
This blog contains general information and is not meant to apply to a specific situation. Please seek advice of counsel before proceeding as each case is unique.