The National Council on Aging – NCOA, has some wonderful resources for all of us, especially those of us with aging parents. The number of scams, financial ones in particular, that target the eldest among us with the most to lose, is staggering.
Did you know that financial scams directed older adults are so prevalent that the FBI has pages of its website dedicated to the topic? It is truly a crime of the digital age. In part, this is due to the knowledge gap seniors have when comes to technology, however, it can also be quite difficult it can be to prosecute these fraud cases. Scams, especially ones perpetrated on older adults, leave the victim feeling extremely vulnerable and in most cases, unable to recoup their losses.
Think only wealthy seniors are at risk? You might be surprised to learn that both low income and financially well off seniors are at risk. While much of today’s fraud is initiated by strangers who are opportunistic criminals, it is amazing just how much financial elder abuse is committed by someone in the family.
FAKE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS – This scam is most likely to begin online. As prescription drugs become more expensive, seniors are especially vulnerable when researching less expensive options via the internet. Because they are not “digital natives,” they are more likely to navigate into disreputable websites. These websites go to great lengths to, at first glance, look like reputable brand names or familiar companies. It is amazing just how easily look-alike logos and familiar colors can trick a visitor into a sense of false security. Counterfeit prescription drug scams are on the rise and the FDA continues to investigate new reports of fraud on an ever increasing basis. ALWAYS – Search prescriptions via the internet with a buddy – someone who is VERY computer savvy – someone who knows what to look for and what to avoid online.
FUNERAL SCAMS – it is amazing the lengths scammers will go to in order to take advantage of the bereaved. This goes far beyond just reading the obituaries. They will actually go to the funeral service in order to take full advantage of the grieving spouse. Very often they will circle back after the service with claims of an outstanding debt and think nothing of using fear or extortion to see that that money is paid. If possible an implication of a gray area or borderline illegal dealings on the part of the deceased spouse can force the victim’s hand – making them less likely to consult family, friends or authorities about the person’s claim. ALWAYS – Assume that if someone is coming to you with their hand out for a debt payment after a funeral that there is a good chance it is a scam. It is best to consult with friends, other family members or the authorities before agreeing to give a stranger money. Even if they came to the funeral.
CEMETERY PLOTS & SCHEMES – Even funeral homes will get in on the scam when a loved one passes. Very often we are unfamiliar with the costs related to funeral services and spouses especially want to make sure they do all they can in the final hours to take care of their beloved’s final resting place. Disreputable funeral directors know this and are very willing to pad the bill and often insist that an expensive casket is required – even in the instance of cremation. When we are lost in grief and sleep deprived, sometimes at the end of a long illness or hospital stay, we tend to turn our thinking brains off and go with what we are told. Seniors are especially vulnerable to this. ALWAYS – Remember to take a friend or family member with you when making final arrangements. In this instance, two brains are always better than one!
MEDICARE AND HEALTH INSURANCE SCAMS – With these scams, very often the perpetrator poses as a representative of Medicare or private health insurance company. In doing this via phone calls, emails and even fake, mobile-clinics, they are able to gather a critical amount of personal data. This information can then be used for identity theft or sold to other would be scammers. ALWAYS – Remember that personal information, especially things like answers to online security questions, your Social Security number, credit card numbers or bank account information – these can all be used to steal your identity. Be very careful to whom you give this information and when in doubt at all check with a friend or family member who can give objective advice.
Where to Start?
If you have questions about how to protect an aging relative from losing their hard-earned money to fraud, or feel overwhelmed because a loved one has passed away without benefit of a will or trust, the best place to start is with a call to my Los Gatos office at (408) 376-2755. Call to request an appointment.
You are welcome to Print this Free 30 Minute Legal Consultation Certificate.
Let’s get some of those questions answered!
Want to know about others current scams targeted at seniors? – Click Here
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.