Scams can come in all forms: through the Internet, phones calls and even from door-to-door con artists posing as salesmen. Unfortunately, senior citizens are a targeted group because they’ve had more time to accumulate wealth. Some scams are obvious but others can seem legitimate.
“It’s hard to believe people would take advantage of the elderly to steal their information and money, but it happens,” says Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay in Venice, Florida.“Figuring out how to identify scams, how to protect oneself from them and what to do if you fall for one are essential lessons for any senior to learn.”
Learning how to avoid scams might sound tricky at first, but with diligence and the right information it will be much easier to stay safe from the different types of scams.
Types of Scams:
- Medicare Scams. Instances like equipment fraud or lab schemes are common types of scams. For equipment fraud, manufacturing companies say they will give products to people completely free of charge, but this is not the case. Insurers are then charged for these products.
- Telemarketing Scams. Usually selling fake products and services, offering prizes or vacations and collecting for fake charities, and phone scams are major issues for seniors. Con artists rush people by giving them a small time frame to make a decision, making it stressful to think clearly. They want people to send money and not follow up with anyone – family, friends and especially lawyers. If anything even feels slightly off, hang up immediately.
- Internet Fraud. This includes phishing, investment schemes and reverse mortgage scams. Phishing happens when an email is sent that looks official and asks the person to give personal information. It’s usually disguised as “updating” or “verifying” information. For example, seniors will get emails that look like they have been sent from the IRS, and once they enter any personal information being asked for the con artists will be able to use it to steal money or commit identity theft. Investment schemes can be appealing to those planning retirement. Usually a pyramid or other type of “get rich quick” scheme, they will probably ask for banking information. Do not give out this information and never believe emails that promise large amounts of money. Reverse mortgage scams usually offer things like free properties and opportunities to invest or refinance. Before making any decisions, consult a known reverse mortgage counselor and they will know if it’s a rip-off or not.
- Funeral and Cemetery Scams. Some con artists will go to a funeral and pose as someone to whom the deceased owed money. They will make up fake debts in order to get money from the grieving relatives. Other kinds of funeral scams come from unscrupulous funeral homes, which will add unnecessary charges to the bill and make the family overpay for the funeral. Sometimes for cremation services, the funeral home director will insist on an expensive casket even though cardboard caskets are the most common for cremations.
- Grandparent Scams. Con artists will trick seniors into thinking they are their grandchildren and ask them for money. To cover their tracks, they usually ask for the transaction to stay between them so other family members never find out.
How to Avoid Scams:
- Never give personal information. If anyone asks for your name, address, credit card, social security or medical information do not answer.
- Do not sign any documents. Scams can be sent through the mail, too. If there are any documents asking for a signature, read the document carefully. If there are parts that don’t make sense or if the source of the document is unknown, do not sign it.
- Ask questions. If you get a call from someone representing a company, ask for the caller’s name and the company address. Consult organizations like the Better Business Bureau, the National Fraud Information Center or a local consumer protection agency to check the validity of the company.
- Get second opinions. Seniors should have a trusted and business-savvy friend present for making for any business decisions. They can help verify legitimacy and give advice for any decisions being made.
If seniors realize they have been conned, they need to take action immediately. End all communication with the con artist; block phone numbers; delete emails; throw out letters that look suspicious, alert the bank if they have financial information. Cancel cards, change passwords and have your bank put fraud alerts on all of your accounts. For personal information like social security, get in touch with one of the credit bureaus and they will provide advice for your next steps.
After these issues are fixed, consider an identity theft protection service. They offer things like credit monitoring which tracks credit reports, credit cards, changes in personal information or if a debt collector is saying there is a late payment. Identity monitoring is when personal information is being used such as change of address requests, payday loan applications and check cashing requests.
“At Tuscan Gardens, we care about the safety and well-being of all senior citizens,” says Nancy. “Education about con artists and how to avoid them is essential to protect one’s identity and finances. When con artists are negatively affecting someone’s life, it can be very stressful and scary. Learning how to avoid scams is necessary so seniors can enjoy a peaceful and stable lifestyle.”
The Art of Living
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.