“There are about 1 million cases of financial exploitation of the elderly in the U.S. each year. The financial loss by victims is more than $2.6 billion annually for reported cases; and only 1 in 24 cases is reported.” — Stop Senior Scams
This is information both caregivers and seniors should all keep in mind. Scams have always been with us, but the current economic climate combined with the turbulent state of American health care have provided fertile ground for them to sprout like weeds.
Consumer Affairs just sent out an alert about one such incidence in Arkansas:
Senior citizens, unfortunately, are common scam victims and a recent senior scam that has popped up in Arkansas involves Medicare.
Telephone solicitors have been calling Medicare beneficiaries asking for personal information, including bank account information and Social Security numbers. Other callers offer updated or replacement Medicare cards for a fee.
The concerns that drive seniors and others to these scams is the same as reported back in 2009 by Kathryn A. Watson, a staff writer for Kiplinger:
Anxious to replenish their recession-embattled retirement savings, many retirees are falling for the tantalizing promises of smooth-talking predators.
‘Seniors are scared that they don’t have enough money for medical costs, or that their home isn’t worth as much as it was,’ says Jean Mathisen, director of AARP’s Fraud Fighter Call Center in Seattle, one of nine such centers. ‘People are feeling such desperation that they sometimes suspend common sense.’
From fabulous offers to investment schemes, from faux bank officials to hawkers of anti-aging remedies, there is no lack of people out there trying to make a dishonest buck. Unfortunately, it is all too often the older adults who are targeted as victims.
So, how do you tell if something is a scam? How can you identify someone invoking Medicare falsely as opposed to someone legitimate? The following resources should help protect yourself and the older members of your circle.
Senior Shield Scam Screen — Self-described as a program of Elder Law & Advocacy (EL&A), this nonprofit corporation has been serving California seniors since 1978. There are a number of resources available on its pages, including an email alert you can sign up for, a list of known fraudulent company names used for mail-based scams, and a scam hotline. The resources page in particular is an invaluable source of information.
Stop Senior Scams — While focused predominantly on the Pennsylvania area, this website still contains and extensive array of useful articles and information.
Watch Out for Scams Targeting Seniors — Kathryn Watson’s article on Kiplinger has an essential breakdown of the most common scams aimed at older adults. Phony bank fraud, investment schemes, and amazing deals are all covered along with good advice for caregivers on helping their older relations avoid being taken in.
Take a few minutes to peruse these resources. Better safe than sorry! If you have others you would like to suggest, please do so in the comments!
Source: “Watch Out for Scams Targeting Seniors,” Kiplinger, 12/01/09
Source: “Seniors get the skinny on scams,” Salisbury Post, 09/01/11
Source: “Senior Shield Scam Screen,” undated
Source: “Seniors Warned About Medicare Scams,” Consumer Affairs, 09/11
Source: “Stop Senior Scams,” undated
Image by scottywz (Scott Zeid), used under its Creative Commons license.