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BBB Reports Fraud Against Seniors on the Rise
Twenty Percent of Americans 65 and Older Have Been Swindled
By: Howard Schwartz
A survey conducted in June by Investor Protection Trust reveals more than 7.3 million elderly Americans – about 20 percent of the population aged 65 or older – have been cheated in investment scams, fake lotteries and deceptive sales to name a few.
Connecticut BBB President, Paulette Scarpetti, says families should discuss fraud prevention with elderly family members.
“Many people don’t even realize they are being victimized, so it is important to identify and discuss how to recognize signs of common scams.”
Families should keep the lines of communication open with elders to avoid scams that are aimed at draining their finances.
There is wide variety of cons that target senior citizens:
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams - The victim typically receives a letter in the mail claiming he or she has won a lottery or sweepstakes. The letter instructs the victim to deposit an enclosed check and then wire a portion back to the company to cover taxes or administration fees. The check turns out to be fake, and the victim loses whatever they wired back to the scammers—often thousands of dollars.
BBB Advice: Never wire money to someone you don’t know. You should never have to send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes.
Medicare Scams - Commonly, a scammer will claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. Con artists give a variety of reasons for requiring this information such as updating information on file or that the information is needed for the senior to be eligible to receive free products or a new prescription drug plan.
BBB Advice: Remind elderly family members that Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information.
Bereavement Scams - In one recent example, a mother and daughter team in Ohio found targets by scouring the obituaries. They would then call the widow or widower and claim that their spouse had outstanding debts that needed to be paid immediately. Victims were urged to provide a blank check or credit card.
BBB Advice: If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.
Deceptive Sales – Some scams begin at the front door in the form of furnace repairmen, contractors, door-to-door salespeople, air duct cleaners and other service providers. Some professionals will lie about the extent of the problem or claim safety issues and then inflate prices for unsuspecting older customers.
BBB Advice: Find professionals you can trust by checking out a company with your BBB at 203-269-2700, extension 2 before you hand over any money.
Investment and Work-at-Home Opportunities - The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. Regardless of the specifics, the victim is offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes.
BBB Advice: Always research any work-at-home opportunity with BBB. Beware of investment or money-making offers that seem too good to be true or use high pressure sales tactics to get you to sign up immediately.
Grandparent scam - Telephone calls come from someone claiming to be a relative who is stuck in a foreign country and needs money to get home, or to help pay emergency medical bills or even bail.
BBB Advice: Ask the caller his or her name or other information that only a relative would know. Ask for a telephone number to call back so you can contact other family members to verify whether the caller in distress is, in fact, a relative who is out of town. A sure red flag is if the caller asks that money be sent by wire transfer.
Contact police if you suspect you or other family members are being conned.
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Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.