With the gradual loss of the physical health they enjoyed when young, sometimes accompanied by mental health issues as well, elderly Americans are keenly aware of their heightened vulnerability. One way they may be able to guard themselves against the schemes of various scammers is by education, said Robbie Namee, trade practice specialist with the Kansas Plains Better Business Burerau based in Wichita.
Why do they target seniors?
“The combination of Social Security income and a lifetime of savings and investment plans can put seniors on the radar of scammers,” Namee said. Factor in the value of their homes, often paid off by the time they reach retirement age, and you have a population that looks especially attractive to scam perpetrators.
The elderly tend to be home during the day as well. That’s the prime operating time for scammers.
Additionally, senior citizens may be more willing than some to listen to the pitch of a scammer. This is an instance in which their good manners may work against their own best interest. Some older consumers find it difficult to hang up on a fast-talking pitchman, though this is exactly what they ought to do.
Keeping seniors abreast of the latest scams is a constant goal of the BBB, Namee said. Some of the newest as well as the most prevalent scammers’ tricks have been gathered and listed below.
The Obamacare scam
Scammers have begun calling the elderly and informing them that they’ve been selected to get new insurance cards for The Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. All they require is a bank account number and Social Security number. This is all just a thinly veiled phishing attempt so the scammer can access the victim’s money.
Medical alert devices
Another popular new scam is the phone caller who claims a relative or friend has signed the victim up for the Life Alert device, popularized in the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” ads. When asked who signed up the senior, the caller claims they cannot give out the information. Sometimes the caller claims the device is free but wants your personal information before they can send it. Be advised that legitimate companies do not use such techniques.
Foreign lottery scams
The United States Postal Inspection Service warns that there’s been an increase in the number of seniors victimized by foreign lottery scams by phone and by regular mail. Many of these scams reportedly originate in Jamaica.
A caller will claim the victim owes fees and/or taxes in order to collect their winnings. The perpetrators of these scams have been known to be extremely pushy. They may go onto Google Maps and find photos of the victim’s home, using that information to scare seniors by making it seem that they are being stalked.
Social Security scam
One of the more prevalent of these scams is one in which a scammer uses a Social Security recipient’s personal information to set up a bank account in their name and have Social Security payments direct deposited into that fraudulent account. Seniors are advised to be on the lookout for a notice saying you have created a new online account that you know nothing of.
The grandparents scam
Still in use after many years is the grandparents’ scam. Since 2010 The Federal Trade Commission has gotten over 40,000 complaints about this scam. A call claims to be from a loved one who is in a foreign country and has been arrested. They supposedly need emergency money and don’t want their parents to have knowledge of it, so want it kept secret. Money is to be sent by wire transfer. Thousands of dollars have been lost to scammers through this old favorite device.
The BBB has established a phone line just for seniors who want to report a scam or ask about a suspicious scam attempt. The BBB Senior Line number is 877-637-3334. Another helpful resource in the BBB Scam Stopper site, found online at bbb.org/scam-stopper. As always, feel free to contact the BBB at 800-856-2417, or visit www.kansasplains.bbb.org.