Scam artists are always finding new ways to prey on senior citizens, or new twists on old cons. But seniors also have to be aware of aggressive marketing ploys that may be perfectly legal, a representative for senior services said.
Rich Schaffer from the South West Kansas Area Agency on Aging presented the program, “Are You Smarter Than a Scam Artist,” last week at the Great Bend Senior Center. His free talk was hosted by the Great Bend Recreation Commission.
People in attendance told Schaffer about the latest telemarketing calls they’ve received, from a company promising $3,000 worth of grocery coupons to those who enroll in its medical alert service.
Schaffer said unscrupulous sales people may try to pressure senior citizens into buying products that are overpriced, or products they don’t need. For example, for most people the need for life insurance decreases as they age, he said. More insurance may not be a wise purchase, “unless you have a lot of debt/liabilities or want to leave a bigger inheritance,” he said.
Those who do make a purchase should not pay with cash or write a check made out to the sales person, Schaffer warned.
“You should always make the check to the insurance company. We’ve had some creepy people out in Great Bend.”
Some products may be right for some people, and Schaffer doesn’t call out companies by name. Reverse mortgages, for example, may be good or bad, “depending on your situation.” But anyone considering a reverse mortgage should understand how it works, and that it is a loan. “It’s borrowing against the equity in your home.”
Ever get a call during dinner, but no one is on the line? That may be a company skirting around the laws behind the “Do Not Call” list.
People can put their telephone on the Federal Trade Commission’s national Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov), and should re-register every year or so. “They cannot make a cold call on you,” Shaffer said, but some companies do call, then hang up if a live person answers.
If they get an answering machine, it’s a different story.
“It’s OK for their message to call your message,” he said. “You are initiating the call if you respond to the message.”
Some calls are attempts at outright fraud. If someone claims to be from the Federal government offering “ObamaCare,” it’s a scam and the best thing to do is hang up.
Anyone who receives notice of winning a foreign lottery should also hang up, or ignore an email of that nature. Any caller who asks for personal information is suspect. The Grandparent Scam attempts to convince people that the caller is their own grandchild, who is in need of emergency funds. The Nigerian Letter, still common online, seeks a “trustworthy person” to help move funds to a U.S. bank. In reality, the con artist hopes to gain access to the victim’s bank account.
Schaffer said $2.4 million is lost to Medicare fraud every hour. Seniors who are confused about services should seek advice, and if they get a letter that is confusing, they should have someone look at it. People should check their Medicare summaries on their statements, and report it if they see services listed that they did not receive. The SouthWest Kansas Area Agency on Aging can also be a helpful source of information. It is based in Dodge City, but has a Great Bend office at 1905 Washington Ave. The phone number is 793-6633. There is also a website at www.swkaaa.org.