Seniors: Be on high alert for scams

October 3, 2013

senior-scamsI look forward to the day
when we no longer need to
warn senior citizens about
scams designed to separate
them from their hard-earned
money. I’m not holding my
breath, however.
According to the FBI, senior
citizens make attractive
targets for con artists for a
variety of reasons:
They’re more likely to have
a nest egg, own their home
and have good credit.
Seniors are less likely to
report fraud because they
don’t know where to report
it, don’t realize they’ve been
scammed, or are too ashamed
at having been duped – possibly
fearing they won’t be
trusted to manage their own
finances going forward.
When elderly victims do
report crimes, they often
make poor witnesses because
of faulty memory.
Seniors are more susceptible
to products promising
increased wealth, cognitive
function, virility,
physical conditioning, anticancer
properties and so on.
Here’s a roundup of common
telemarketing scams
targeting seniors and how
you can avoid them:
Be wary, even if callers
appear legitimate. Caller ID
“spoofers” pretending to
represent your bank, credit
card company or government
agencies may try to
trick you into revealing personal
information under the
pretext of fixing a security
breach. When in doubt, hang
up and contact the organization
Other common telemarketing
scams include:
You’ve supposedly won a
free prize but are asked to
pay for handling, postage
or taxes. By law, you never
have to pay for any legitimate
Get-rich-quick schemes,
like those involving Nigerian
princes trying to smuggle
funds out of their country
using your bank account in
exchange for a cut of the
The “Grandparent Scam,”
where someone pretending
to be your grandchild calls
in a panic, claiming to have
been arrested or injured (often
abroad) and asking you
to wire them money – and
not tell their parents because
they’re embarrassed.
Soliciting funds for fake
charities, especially after natural
Companies offering seniors
free medical equipment
or services. After you provide
your Medicare number,
they forge a doctor’s signature
and bill Medicare for
unneeded goods or services
you never actually receive.
Some particularly brazen
thieves will even offer to help
you recover money you’ve
lost to other scammers (who
are often part of the same
Although direct telephone
contact is common, scammers
also use mailers, email,
texts and advertisements to
lure potential victims into
contacting them for further
information. A few tip-offs
these offers – whatever the
channel – might be bogus:
The offer sounds too
good to be true.
High-pressure sales tactics
– they won’t take no for an
answer, have sensible-sounding
answers for your every
question or hesitation.
You must make a decision
“right now” because the offer
will expire soon.
Claims that you are one of
just a few people eligible for
the offer.
Your credit card number
is requested for verification.
Never provide credit card or
other personal information
by phone, letter or email unless
you made the initial contact.
You are urged to provide
money quickly and not given
time to consider the offer.
There is no risk. All investments
have some risk, except
for U.S. Government obligations.
They refuse to provide detailed
written information.
You are asked to trust
the telemarketer. Like your
mother always said, “Don’t
trust strangers.”
The Federal Trade Commission
( has a
Scam Alert Blog that exposes
the latest scams, as well as a
site where you can file a complaint
if a business doesn’t
make good on its promises
or cheats you out of your