Imagine this scenario: It is early evening; dinner time. The phone rings and a very kind, soothing voice asks for Mrs. Smith, the 78 year old resident. The caller is from Medicare, informing Mrs. Smith of a reimbursement issue but not to worry, it is an easy fix. The caller gathers some basic information from Mrs. Smith and promises that everything will be fine within 24 hours. A financial fraud has just been committed.
Various scams targeting seniors have become shockingly prevalent because, in the words of a convicted scammer, “They (seniors) have a lot of money and a lot of trust.” Unfortunately, a significant number of these crimes are committed by the victim’s own family members.
Whether the culprits are strangers or relatives, these types of fraud frequently go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute. The victims lose a lot and frequently are unable to recoup their losses or recover from the consequences. The variety of scams and fraudulent schemes is surprisingly wide. Some of the more common ones are:
· Medicare/health insurance scams
· Counterfeit prescription drugs
· Funeral & cemetery scams
· Fraudulent anti-aging products
· A wide range of telemarketing/phone scams
· Fake charity scams
· Fake accident ploys
· Internet and email fraud (including phishing)
· Fake or sub-par investment schemes
· Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
· Sweepstakes & lottery scams
So, how can seniors protect themselves against such crimes? The National Crime Prevention Council has the following tips:
· It’s shrewd, not rude to hang up on a suspicious telemarketer
· Don’t give personal information to people you don’t know unless you initiated the contact
· Don’t let yourself get pressured into a verbal agreement or signing a contract
· Be skeptical of online charitable solicitations and other online offers
· Always ask to receive information in the mail and check to be sure the company is legitimate
· Never agree to pay for products or services in advance
· Get estimates and ask for references on home repair offers and other products or services
· If you suspect fraud, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately
If you have already been victimized, don’t be ashamed. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Keep handy the phone numbers of your bank, the local police, the nearest office of Adult Protective Services, etc.
Speak out so this kind of crime can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Dr. Memo Diriker is the Founding Director of the Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON). BEACON is the premier business and economic research and consulting unit of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. BEACON is home to the award winning Community Visioning, ShoreTRENDS, GraySHORE, ShoreENERGY, GNAppWorks, and Bienvenidos a Delmarva initiatives and a proud partner of the GeoDASH initiative.
Some links to some additional resources: