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Elder Fraud: How to Recognize (and Avoid) Scams at Any Age

elder scams

According to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, nearly one in 20 adults over age 60 have been financially exploited at some point in their senior years. However, by arming yourself with information and being aware of common scams, you can take steps to avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic.

Here are the details on 5 common scams, along with tips on how you can keep from becoming a victim of them:

  1. IRS imposter scams

By phone or email, the con artists claim that the victims owe back taxes and penalties, and unless payment is made immediately, arrest, foreclosure, or other legal consequences could result. Victims are often instructed to pay by wire transfer, credit card, certified check, or even gift card.

How to protect yourself: Remember that the IRS always sends bills to taxpayers through the postal service before calling about taxes that are owed and will never insist on information over the phone. If you get one of these calls or emails, the best thing to do is just hang up or delete the message (without clicking on any links provided in such emails). To confirm whether you really do owe taxes, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

  1. Medicare phone scams

One of the latest money scams involves fraudsters calling seniors to tell them they must pay a fee in order to receive new ID cards. In reality, all Medicare enrollees will receive their cards free of charge through the mail and do not have to do anything beyond opening the envelope and sharing the new number with their healthcare providers.

Once the con artists have your data, they can use it to obtain health services, purchase medical equipment, fill prescriptions, or file false claims and pocket the money

How to protect yourself: Safeguard your personal information carefully. Most Medicare scammers perpetrate their hoaxes by phone, but some use email or even show up at your door. If you have any concerns, call the customer service number found on the back of your Medicare card.

  1. Silent calls and robocall scams

Have you ever answered your phone, only to find there's no one on the other end? It might simply be a wrong number, but it might also be an automated system testing out phone numbers to see which ones are answered by real humans. These silent calls are designed to identify potential scam targets. Once you answer, your number is added to a list that gets sold to an untold number of fraudsters. And that leads to robocalls.

How to protect yourself: Get on the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry, screen your calls, and don't pick up if the number doesn't look familiar. If you get fooled and do answer, just hang up. Be sure not to react to anything in the message (such as a statement like "press 3 to be taken off the list") as that will probably just lead to more calls.

  1. Grandparent scams

Fraudsters have been known to phone random older adults and say something like, "Hey Grandpa, guess who this is?" The unwitting senior names an actual grandchild that the voice sounds most like. Having established a bogus identity, the scammer then begs Grandpa to wire some cash right away because he or she has been arrested, been in an accident, or is overdue on rent. The fraudster may add something like, "And please don't tell Mom or Dad, OK?"

If the victim complies, the con artist will frequently call again, claiming the fees are higher than initially thought. By the second call, most people realize they've been scammed.

How to protect yourself: Proceed with caution and attempt to verify the facts before wiring money to grandchildren in trouble. Try asking the person on the phone some basic questions that only your real grandchild would be able to answer, such as the name of a family pet. Or reach out to a close friend or other relative of your grandchild to see what they know about the situation.

  1. Tech support scams

There are numerous variations of this scam, but this is how it typically works: Posing as a representative of a technology company such as Dell or Microsoft, a caller informs you that his or her organization has detected viruses on your computer. The scammer then convinces you to hand over your banking information as well as remote access to your machine so that the problem can be "fixed" and the service can be billed to you.

In some cases, you might be told to click on a link in an email and follow the directions given there. But when you go to the site, malware gets installed on your device and gives the scammer access to your personal files with information on your bank accounts, passwords, and health records. Some fraudsters lock victims' systems down and demand a ransom fee to restore access.

How to protect yourself: Do not give your financial information or control of your computer to anyone who calls out of the blue claiming to be from tech support. Make sure anti-virus software and pop-up blockers are installed on your device and stay on top of updates. Never, ever click on links in pop-up ads or unsolicited emails. If you have questions, call the real tech support by finding the number on the company's website or product packaging (not on your caller ID or in an email).

Source: Great Senior Living

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