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Elder Fraud: Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

There are a variety of reasons why those older than 50 can be easy targets for fraud. Among these is that retirees simply tend to be home more often than younger people, making them more accessible to telemarketers and scammers. Even mild dementia can inhibit an older person’s judgment when interacting with someone who might be a scammer. And the elderly can be less savvy than younger people about their rights and vendors’ responsibilities in a market that’s increasingly complicated.

The best target for a scammer is an older person who’s obviously vulnerable—those who live alone, have physical or mental disabilities, or have recently lost a spouse or caregiver. Here are a few common scams that target the elderly—and how to spot them.

Credit Card phishing

Elders are particular targets of fraud. If your elderly loved one is receiving extremely frequent telemarketing calls and piles of junk mail, he or she may be a target for telemarketing or mail fraud.

Telemarketing fraud

Fraudulent telemarketers steal approximately $40 billion per year, according to the Elder Fraud Project, and the FBI estimates that approximately 14,000 illegal telemarketing organizations are in operation today. Dishonest telemarketing scams include telling victims they have won a prize (but have to pay a small fee to claim it); taking orders for products that are never sent; or promoting fraudulent investments. Other scams involve getting seniors to disclose credit card numbers and other personal information.

If you want to tell whether the telemarketer you’re speaking with is legitimate, ask for the organization’s phone number and address. If the person on the other end of the line won’t disclose the organization’s phone number, it’s a red flag. Never give in to someone who insists on an immediate decision over the phone.

Mail fraud

Mail schemes relentlessly target seniors—offering sweepstakes entries, “free” trips, and prizes. As with dishonest telemarketers, mail fraudsters often try to get seniors to disclose credit card information for identity theft purposes, pay a fee to collect a prize they’ve won or enter a contest, or pay for goods that are never sent.

Sweetheart scams

Some scammers get up close and personal—insinuating themselves into the senior’s life. In a “sweetheart scam,” a scammer will pretend to be romantically interested in the senior person, gain their trust, and then insist on having their names added to bank accounts and property deeds. This can be devastating for both seniors and their families, as the scammer often disappears with the money or property as soon as they can.

Home repair scams

Some scammers target neighborhoods with high percentages of seniors. They’ll knock on a senior’s door and tell the victim they’ve spotted a serious problem with their house, such as a hole in the roof or a clogged drainpipe, and ask for payment up front to fix it. Once the senior has paid, the scammers either claim the project is more expensive than initially believed—demanding more money—or disappear with the payment.

Using undue influence to bully seniors out of money or property

Scammers sometimes convince seniors it’s to their benefit to give them valuable property—even homes—or sell them at ridiculously low prices. Scammers sometimes coerce seniors into signing wills or documents granting power of attorney, often through intimidation and threat. And company representatives sometimes overcharge seniors drastically, hiding the excess charges in complicated interest or fees.

Lying about a family member in dire straits

Some scammers, pretending to be associated with law enforcement, will tell senior victims that a family member of theirs has been injured or arrested. The senior will then give money to pay for the loved one’s bail or medical costs—after which the scammer disappears with the money.

Elders are particular targets of fraud. If your elderly loved one is receiving extremely frequent telemarketing calls and piles of junk mail, he or she may be a target for telemarketing or mail fraud. If your loved one makes large repeated payments to a company located out of state or has payments picked up by courier services, it’s possible he or she is already a victim. Contact law enforcement or the National Fraud Information Center (1-800-876-7060)—and don’t let your loved one become a victim of fraud.

How To Prevent Senior Fraud – AOL.com