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Top Senior Scams

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Six top senior crimes can be easily personalized by heartbreaking stories of fraud and deception.

There's the financial exploitation of an elderly woman with dementia who is threatened by a scammer posing as a police officer demanding money to help her retrieve what she believes to be lost sweepstakes winnings. Elsewhere, there's a senior who loses his identity when he trustingly gives his bank number to a con man posing as a bank official. 

Protect Seniors from FraudSM is aimed at preventing the growing number of crimes against seniors.

The Home Instead Seniors Care® network, along with North American security experts, has identified the six top scams involving seniors:

  1. Telemarketing via Internet, phones and mail. Scammers might send out email on bank letterhead that says there is a problem with the account and asks the senior to update information, password and number.
  2. Fake charities. This type of scam may involve a call from a charity that tells you they are supporting a reputable organization and asks you to make a donation. What they don't tell you is that they are not authorized to be fundraising for that organization. While as little as 3 percent of your donation may go to that organization, 97 percent may stay in their pocket.
  3. Sweepstakes. Many times people will get an official-looking check in the mail. The account number is fraudulent, but the routing number is correct so the bank reads it as a valid check. What the sweepstakes will tell you is, "Cash the check, you get the bulk of the money and send $5,000 to us for processing." Fifteen days later, that check bounces and the senior is liable for that $5,000. Some even come looking like official IRS or Canada Revenue Agency refunds.
  4. Health care fraud. It's a growing "industry," particularly in the U.S., and frequently ignored. Scammers misuse a medical card to then fabricate treatment and get paid for it. Scammers can find out a senior is diabetic, for instance, call him up and say, "Give us your Medicare card number, and we can send your supplies through the mail." Or they can obtain free treatment by assuming that older adult's identity.
  5. Identity theft. A senior gets the call: "We need to verify your account number." The caller will then ask the senior to provide Social Security or Social Insurance number information. Scammers can match that information with the senior's phone number, last place of employment and home address. When they have put that package together, they can use it to take a loan out on home, open credit cards, go to box stores and open an account, and get a $5,000 line of credit. The senior gets the bill, and the scammers get the goods.
  6. Financial exploitation, including online investment and securities fraud. Scammers will sell seniors long-term securities or stock. They have no problems selling a woman in her 80s a certificate that doesn't mature for 20 or 25 years. They're relying on her inability to understand the fine print. Then, if she needs the money, she must break the bond and pay penalties.  Scammers are making a commission. Other scams in this category may include forged checks and home-repair fraud. 

Learn Why Seniors are targets and how the watchful eyes of a Home Instead CAREGiver can help.

Scam defense tactics every senior needs to know. Get Your Free Fraud Protection Toolkit

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