With reported financial exploitation of the elderly now exceeding a staggering $1.7 billion annually, it’s important to know what scams are most prevalent and which resources you can call for help.
Relative in need: Someone who pretends to be a family member or friend calls or e-mails you to say they are in trouble and need you to wire money right away.
Charity appeals: You get a call or letter from someone asking for money for a fake charity—either the charity does not exist or the charity did not call or write to you.
Lottery or sweepstakes: You get a call or e-mail that you have a chance to win a lot of money through a foreign country’s sweepstakes or lottery. The caller will offer tips about how to win if you pay a fee or buy something. Or the caller or e-mail says you already have won and you must give your bank account information or pay a fee to collect your winnings.
Home improvement: Scammers take money for repairs and then they never return to do the work or they do bad work. Sometimes they break something to create more work or they say that things need work when they don’t.
Free lunch: Scammers invite you to a free lunch and seminar, and then pressure you to give them information about your money, and to invest the money with them. They offer you “tips” or “guaranteed returns.”
Free trip: Scammers say you’ve won a free trip but they ask for a credit card number or advance cash to hold the reservation.
Government money: You get a call or letter that seems to be from a government agency. Scammers say that if you give a credit card number or send a money order, you can apply for government help with housing, home repairs, utilities, or taxes.
Drug plans: Scammers pretend they are with Medicare prescription drug plans, and try to sell Medicare discount drug cards that are not valid. Companies with Medicare drug plans are not allowed to send unsolicited mail, emails, or phone calls.
Identity theft: Scammers steal personal information—such as a name, date of birth, Social Security number, account number, and mother’s maiden name— and use the information to open credit cards or get a mortgage in someone else’s name.
Fake “official” mail: Scammers send letters or e-mails that look like they are from a legitimate bank, business, or agency to try to get your personal information or bank account number.
From the manual, “Protecting Residents from Financial Exploitation”, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Resources for Guarding Against Scams
Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry gives people a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls (although scam artists may ignore the rules).
Identifying and responding to scams
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website is a plentiful source of information for identifying and responding to scams, including those that target older people.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has a two-page tip sheet on international internet scams at www.ic3.gov/media/MassMarketFraud. pdf and accepts complaints about internet crime.
Scams by Mail
Contact the United States Postal Inspection Service about any scams that use the US mail service.