‘Tis the Season… Senior Scams Heat Up in the Northern Michigan Sun
For a variety of reasons ranging from loneliness to difficulty hearing, our senior loved ones are considered easy targets for scams and other forms of fraud. As the mercury rises, so does the number of scams aimed at seniors. Caregivers in northern Michigan should be sure to educate their senior loved ones about three common types of fraud against the elderly as identified by the FBI.
- You’ve Won a Free Family Vacation! According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, fake sweepstakes are some of the most common scams committed against older adults. Seniors lose an estimated $35 million trying to claim fake prizes. This scam works a few different ways. In one scenario, the senior receives a phone call telling them they’ve won and asking for a credit card or bank number to “pay the taxes” on the prize. But no prize ever materializes. In another scenario, an older adult gets an official looking check in the mail informing them that they won a free vacation or even a free car. Once the senior cashes the check, they are required to send one of their own checks or credit card numbers to cover “taxes”. Within a few weeks the senior learns the prize money check was no good and they are out the money they sent for taxes. If they paid by credit card, they soon discover the card has been used fraudulently all over the world. Remind your senior loved one that they can’t win a sweepstakes they never entered. And, just as important, legitimate sweepstakes won’t ask you for money to claim the prize.
- Guard the Card. Identity theft against older adults continues to be on the rise. It all begins with the scammer gaining access to one of their card numbers. It can be a credit card, a social security card, a driver’s license number or even their Medicare card. Criminals use the card number to apply for car loans, cell phones, credit cards and more. Make sure your aging loved one keeps their cards locked up in a safe at home when they aren’t using them, especially their Social Security and Medicare cards.
- Bogus Children’s Charities or Health Organizations. Many seniors have lost a child or grandchild to cancer or another health condition. Some older adults have a soft spot for charities that research autism or Down’s syndrome or another cause that affects a grandchild. These kinds of scenarios make them vulnerable to fake charities who call asking for donations. Some of the most brazen scammers even claim to be collecting donations for the local fire department or police departments. Unless you have a personal relationship with the caller, it is never a good idea to give credit card information over the phone. Fundraising experts recommend evaluating the charity using at least two different review sites. Charity Navigator and the charity pages of the Better Business Bureau site are two to consider.