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U.S. Alert - Three Senior Crimes Are on the Rise

Hear about one senior's experience with financial fraud and learn expert tactics on avoiding scams.

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Rising incidents of scams targeting older adults present an enormous threat to seniors' security, both financially and emotionally. Senior fraud victims may suffer long-lasting trauma that often erodes their sense of trust and well-being, eldercare experts have noted.

Three crimes, in particular, are on the rise, experts say. They are identity theft, Medicaid/Medicare and medication fraud, and financial exploitation.

A recent MetLife study titled "The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse" revealed that the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase since 2008. Details of these crimes, from National Association of Triads Director Ed Hutchison, include:

  1. Health care fraud including Medicare/Medicaid scams and medication theft. The major fraud tactic in this growing industry that frequently gets ignored is the misuse of a medical card. Scammers fabricate treatment and get paid for it. Another strategy involves finding a senior in need of medical supplies, calling him or her and saying, "Give us your Medicare card number and we can send your supplies through the mail." Or criminals can obtain treatments or medication by assuming an older adult's identity.

    The World Privacy Forum revealed that a half million Americans have been victims of identity theft and health care fraud. The National White Collar Crimes Center puts the loss due to health care fraud at $100 billion or 10 percent of America's total health care expenditures.
    What's more, many seniors take multiple prescription medications. Crimes of theft and fraud are being committed by those who break into a senior's home for the purpose of stealing those medications.

  2. Identity theft. It's amazing the damage a scammer can do with the last four digits of a Social Security number. Those important four numbers can be combined with employment history and addresses to take out loans and lines of credit.
    Scammers sometimes find Social Security numbers on the Internet, so that's why it's important to check your senior's credit often. By law, everyone gets one free credit check a year. Staggering requests among the three credit companies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – can allow consumers to check their credit every few months.
  3. Financial exploitation. The financial exploitation of seniors comes in the form of a variety of cons. One of the most successful deceptions perpetrated recently on older adults is the grandparent scam. The fraudster calls the senior claiming to be a grandchild in need of money. The grandparent is instructed to wire money ASAP. "A senior in the community fell for this," said a Home Instead® franchise owner recently. "Fortunately, Western Union was suspicious and held up the transaction, successfully averting the crime. This happened before the senior became a Home Instead client, but she is still upset."

    Older adults have a high likelihood of becoming the target of a scammer sooner or later, experts say. It might come in the form of a knock on the door, an offer to shingle the roof, a phone call from a friendly voice that guarantees big savings on medications, or an email that promises the biggest return ever on an investment.

Learn the three Financial Abuse Tactics (PDF 420k) that fraudsters use to deceive unsuspecting older adults.

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

Last revised: July 9, 2012

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 10, 2012 at 7:29 am | Posted by Linda Rose

    Very informative...


  2. August 10, 2012 at 12:22 am | Posted by William Diamond

    Allowed a "jerk" roofing contractor to inspect our roof. We were told it was badly damaged and had to be replaced at once. I called our insurance company and he gave us a number to call to report it to. We called the number and this Jerk comes back and said he has talked to my adjuster and they are ready to start. They started and did a "fair" job, nothing great. But the contractor broke into my big tool chest and stole all of my Dewalt cordless power tools. He denied any knowledge of the act, gathered up their stuff, and left without finishing the job. I had to pay out of pocket to get the roof job completed. The police said there was nothing that I could do as I did not have the proper documentation. I am wheel chair bound and could not watch them. Their phone is no longer answered and I suspect they are long gone in their yellow Ford pickup. NEVER TRUST ANYONE YOU DON'T KNOW, EVER.


    • October 8, 2012 at 9:36 am | Posted by Nick Miione

      I am so upset with the way seniors are being treated. If anyone needs work to their home please get three prices and check with the local Better Business Bureau. If your doctor told you that you needed emergency surgery I would get a second opinion as well.


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