03 May 2016

Scamming the Elderly

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Spring is a time for renewal. Unfortunately, it is also the time that con artists come out of the woodwork and their favorite targets are senior citizens. Oh sure, we all get phone calls from Rachel from Cardholder Services, mail with envelopes claiming that we’ve already won and email from Nigerian Princes, but we see these every week.  We’re used to them and have our defenses ready.

AARP highlights some special Springtime scams that are less familiar.  Some prey on our hopes, like vacation scams that that somehow need your credit card number to secure a free trip.  Some prey on legitimate concerns like free lunch seminars about investments that ask you for all kinds of personal info. And some prey on our fears like phone calls from an IRS agent who needs you to prove who you are by giving him your social security number.

The FBI has a more comprehensive list of common cons, and a separate list of frauds targeting Seniors. Some frauds are after your money, very similar to garden variety telemarketing cons. Some are after your property, like reverse mortgage frauds. And some view you as the means to defraud the government through medicare fraud.

Some quick rules of thumb for spotting fraud:

  • Microsoft isn’t calling you to warn about a virus infection on your computer
  • The IRS makes first contact with a taxpayer about an issue by mail
  • If they need your credit card number the prize isn’t really free
  • You didn’t win some European lottery that you don’t remember entering
  • An attorney trying to turn over an inheritance from an unknown distant relative won’t contact you first by email
  • And if you need to make a decision on an investment right away, then the decision is “no”

Sadly, we all need to be on the alert all of the time, but our seniors need to be particularly wary this time of year.

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About the Author


works mostly behind the scenes at Conquer the Clutter, supporting Maria's efforts to make the world a neater place to live.

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