Seniors are a targeted group for scams. They receive more phone calls and mail solicitation than any other age group. Part of the reason scammers target seniors may be because of their vulnerability--they are usually trusting and compassionate; they have a lot of time on their hands if they are retired; they have diminished hearing; and they like the idea of getting a good deal with their money. The National Council on Aging reports the most prevalent scams are lotteries/sweepstakes, cemetery and cremation, counterfeit prescription medicines, investment opportunities, technical support services, repair fraud, grandparent scam, Medicare card ID theft and unscrupulous charitable solicitations. Other scams noticeable online are ones that use false stories about celebrities trying to sell you products such as face cream or nutritional supplements. Facebook is also a place to be careful. You may be more trusting of people on Facebook who reach out to you.
Educating yourself and your family is important in preventing fraud. Here are some tips from the National Council on Aging that can protect you from scams.
- Never give your banking, credit card, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone.
- Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research. Ask a trusted family member what they think about the offer or deal. Take your time in making decisions and walk away if you feel pressured by a salesperson.
- If you decide to purchase something, read all contracts and agreements before signing and make sure everything is in writing. Understand all contract cancelation and refund terms.
- Tell solicitors: "I never buy from (or donate to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Send me something in writing."
- Sign up for the "Do Not Call" list and take yourself off multiple mailing lists at www.donotcall.gov.
- Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent them from being stolen from the mailbox.
- Shred all receipts with your credit card number. Monitor your bank and credit card statements.