While a person can become a victim of a scam at any age, the senior population is becoming more vulnerable to scammers.
Seniors make good targets because they generally have good credit and accessible savings. Further, many seniors are alone or suffer from conditions like memory loss or frailty, which make seniors easier targets for fraud.
Here is a rundown of common fraud schemes that prey on the elderly:
Medicare And Health Insurance Scams
In these schemes, a con artist pretends to be a Medicare representative and will call or set up a makeshift mobile clinic to try to get people age 65 or older to reveal personal information. With access to personal information, these con artists later file false claims against Medicare and pocket the money.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs Schemes
Often, these internet schemes offer specialized medications at a bargain price. These schemes are dangerous because seniors can lose a lot of money and may not receive the real medications they need.
Funeral And Cemetery Scams
This scam involves a crook who scans obituaries and then attends funeral services to take advantage of a grieving spouse or family member. Often, the crook then claims that the decedent owed the crook money and will try to collect on a fake debt.
Email phishing scams range from those involving a Nigerian prince to a surprise inheritance from an unknown relative. Seniors also unwittingly update personal information in response to a phishing email from what appears to be a legitimate company or known sender.
Homeowner And Reverse Mortgage Scams
These scams affect seniors who have equity in their homes. These scams range from predatory lending practices and sales products that can only be purchased with proceeds from a reverse mortgage to family members pressuring a senior to obtain a reverse mortgage in order to steal the proceeds of the loan.
The Grandparent Scam
In this scam, a crook calls a senior and says, “Hi, Grandma, do you know who this is?” The senior takes guesses on which grandchild the caller sounds like. The caller then asks for money to solve some unexpected financial problem like car repairs or overdue rent and begs the senior not to tell the “grandchild’s” parents.
This common scheme involves a telemarketer asking for identity or financial information. Some statistics suggest that seniors are twice as likely to make a purchase over the phone. This form of scam is difficult to trace because there is no face-to-face interaction or paper trail. Scammers usually share the valuable identity and financial information with others.
In this well-known scheme, a senior is told that he or she won the lottery and needs to pay a fee to unlock the supposed prize. A check is sent to the senior and deposited into the senior’s account, until the senior discovers the fake check has been rejected. By the time the senior discovers the fake check, the criminals have already collected the fees, which are pocketed by the crooks.
Home Repair Schemes
These crooks go door-to-door to conduct home repairs on seniors’ homes. The scam varies from overcharging for work to requiring payment upfront without finishing the work. These crooks also lure seniors outside of the home to view the proposed repair, and while the senior is outside, an accomplice enters the home to steal valuables.
Where many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings, these seniors should be wary of pyramid schemes complex financial products that lack strong endorsements from trusted finance sources.
Avoid these scams by refusing high-pressure deals, guarding all personal and financial information, and practicing caution with any offer that sounds too good to be true.
However, having a carefully drafted power of attorney is another way to guard against fraud. With a power of attorney, a senior can appoint a trusted individual to help manage and monitor financial transactions.
Kara Gansmann is an attorney in the Wilmington office of Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, where her practice encompasses elder law and estate planning. Kara advises individuals and families with estate planning needs and asset protection tactics. In this role, she strategizes with clients to preserve assets for long-term care and to leave legacy gifts to family members. Kara works with elderly clients in need of Medicaid crisis planning and Medicaid applications. As part of her practice, Kara drafts wills, trusts and powers of attorney. In the courtroom, Kara represents clients in the administration of estates, guardianship/incompetency proceedings, and guardianship administration. Kara also litigates estate and trust matters, including will caveats, the modification or termination of trusts, and litigation arising from estate documents or fiduciary roles. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law and Special Needs Section and serves as co-chair of the CLE Committee for that section. Kara also serves as a liaison between the North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law and Special Needs Section and the North Carolina Bar Association Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section.