Scams that target seniors
SENIOR CITIZENS continue to be prime targets of
con artists. They are more likely to have a nest egg
or own their homes, making them fertile ground for
financial scams. They may find it hard to keep up
with the quick pace of technology, giving scammers
a new assortment of ways to attack. They often don’t
know who to report a scam to, and therefore feel
like helpless victims with nowhere to go.
The only way for the elderly to protect themselves and their finances is to be aware, and to be
skeptical when they are presented with all types of
deals and opportunities. Here are some very common frauds being perpetrated against the senior
ulent charge has been placed on the card. The person
may even present information such as a current billing address and the last five numbers on the senior’s
credit card. The caller then asks for the three-digit
verification code on the back of the card in order to
reverse the charges. Once scammers receive this,
they have complete access to the credit card.
Never give out your bank or credit card information under these circumstances. Hang up, call
the phone number on the back of your card and ask
customer service to verify whether there is a fraudulent charge. Alert them if it turns out a scam has
The grandparent scheme
A senior receives a call from someone claiming
to be his or her grandchild. The caller has an elaborate story about needing money for school, or claims
to be the victim of a car accident, or needs money for
a class trip. Currently, a common story is that the
caller is overseas and has been mugged and had all
his money and documentation stolen. The caller will
often claim to be too embarrassed to ask his parents,
and plead that the grandparent not contact them.
The caller then convinces the senior to wire funds as
soon as possible. There has been an epidemic of the
grandparent scam across the United States; as a
result, older Americans should be on high alert.
If you receive a call like this and are unsure of
who the person is, ask for further information.
Verify with the parents. And never wire money to
anyone unless you are 100 percent certain of who it
is and have verified his or her information.
The fake lottery or sweepstakes
While this scheme is not limited to seniors, they
make up an overwhelming percentage of victims. A
scammer gathers contact information such as an
email address, phone number or mailing address.
The scammer then contacts an elderly person claiming that the person has won a prize, and the scammer simply needs a credit card to process the reward.
The recipient may be enticed to buy a subscription
or pay to enter a lottery in order to be eligible for a
sweepstakes. Of course, no subscription is ever honored, and any cash submitted for a sweepstakes goes
right into the hands of the scammer.
It is illegal for companies to require you to buy
anything to enter a sweepstakes. Shred any offer that
asks you to do so. Never give your credit card number
in order to claim a prize. This will compromise your
information and jeopardize your financial security.
Numerous scams target seniors’ need for pre-
scription drugs. Seniors may receive offers to buy
medicine at 50 percent off or in bulk via mail, email
or unsolicited phone calls. The reality is the offer
may require a hefty membership fee to get started,
There are many discount prescrip-
tion drug programs offered through
health insurance carriers that are
useful and legitimate. Ask your
pharmacist to recommend a
program that he or she can
A FEW YEARS ago I was
past due on a bill and it
was sent to collections.
Since then, I have paid the
full amount of the bill and
settled the matter with
collections. I recently
applied for a loan and was
denied by the bank due to
a low credit score. That one
late bill that I already paid
is still on my credit score
and continues to lower it.
What can I do?
Who to turn to
If you are a victim of
one of these scams, make
sure to report it immediately. Alert your bank any
time you are suspicious or
feel you may have been
taken advantage of. For more
information and resources
about elderly scams, go to the
Consumer Fraud Reporting:
Many people have small
collection items on their
credit report from utility
companies, their cellphone
company, unpaid medical
bills, credit card balances
and other small collection
items that are showing
as outstanding or
First of all, ask
a “letter of
has since been
resolved. If this
does not work,
consider using a credit
repair company, which
can be researched
with a simple Web
search. These matters
can be dif;cult and time
consuming to resolve,
and sometimes having
a company assist you
is the best option. C
The credit card fraud call
In this scam, a caller claims to be from the
senior’s credit card company and states that a fraud-
© 2012 FIGHT BACK! INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate. Visit his blog at www.
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