Stop elderly scams and fraud of senior citizens.
Senior citizens are often the target of a number of scams. They can get help in both identifying and preventing various forms of fraud from occurring. There are organizations, such as Agency on Aging centers as well as the AARP Foundation ElderWatch that will assist with addressing financial, medical, telemarketing, or any other types of scams. The solutions available to the elderly range from providing free legal advice to credit counseling and much more.
It is estimated that as many as one million elderly people fall victim to one or more scams each year. It is a diverse group of individuals that are impacted as well. It does not matter if the senior citizen is living in poverty or “well-off”, if they have a college degree or not, and their age is not a factor. The fact is that fraud can hit people of all backgrounds, races, and religions.
There is no one reason why older people are targeted. Maybe some seniors are lonely and looking for someone to talk to. Maybe they are concerned whether their savings will last through their retirement. Or maybe they are looking to make a few dollars so they can provide more financial stability for their next of kin. There can be dozens of possible reasons why the elderly fall victim to these scams. No matter the reason why, help is available.
Steps to stop fraud
Prevention is the key. The most important thing for a senior to do is to ask for help or advice before agreeing to any type of arrangement with a company. Never be pressured into any type of deal before asking for assistance. There are several things to note.
- Do not sign an agreement with any individual or businesses.
- Never provide anyone any personal or financial information. Do not give out social security, credit card or bank account numbers. Never give any financial information period.
- Do not even give out more so called “person details”. Never give an address, details on children or family, or other general information.
- Do not given any online account information such as passwords.
Scammers will often try to pressure an elderly person into given out information. Remember nothing is ever that urgent. Any person or company that says they need an immediate reply is not going to be legitimate and they are trying to pressure the person.
Always ask for advice from a third party. There are several places that a senior citizen can contact. They include Agency on Aging Centers, Elder Law Attorneys, non-profit credit counseling agencies, health insurance hotlines such as Senior Medicare Patrol (Medicare Fraud Protection), pro-bono legal firms, and many other options. Almost all of these fraud prevention services are free.
Medical and health insurance issues are normally deal with by the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). This is a group of volunteers that focus on assisting Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. They can also deal with any Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, issues. They also help the elderly in identifying scams when it comes to their medical care.
Volunteer can answer questions on what government health care programs can pay for. SMPs staff can go over the client's Medicare Summary Notices, look for medical billing errors, and help the elderly avoid falling for any number of health care scams. As there are companies that promise things, such as very low cost insurance, prescription medications, and more to the elderly, and many of those are illegal promises. Read more on SMP - Senior Medical Patrol.
Agency on Aging Centers are located in all 50 states, and most counties have a local office. These are federal government affiliated not-for-profit organizations that provides dozens of assistance programs to senior citizens. One of their core responsibilities is on try to stop the elderly and even the disabled from being scammed. Their services focus on dealing with telemarketing fraud, identify theft, medical care issues, internet scams, and much more.
The centers employ both full time staff and volunteers. They also have extensive partnerships with other organizations in their local communities, such ad credit counseling agencies or social service groups. All of these different groups look out for vulnerable elderly members of the community, whether they are low or high income earners. If there is ever a question that an older adult has on how to prevent a scam from being run on them, they can contact an Agency on Aging Center. For referrals, dial 1-800-677-1116, or find financial aid from government.
When an elderly person has been scammed, or if they have questions on whether fraud is occurring or not, the dozens of pro-bono law firms that are part of the Legal Services Corporation can provide free advice. Attorneys are involved in providing support to senior citizens and preventing financial abuse. The best part is that the assistance is available at no cost to the client, regardless of their income.
They answer questions on internet scams as well as income tax cases, including IRS scams. There are also predatory lenders that try to take advantage of senior citizens, and the lawyers can also help the senior deal with those companies. Dozens of other forms of fraud can be addressed by the Legal Services Corporation, and they help people enter into wills, applying for housing, and much more. Find legal advice for free.
In addition to that option for free help in recovering or identifying from scams, there are also elder law attorneys that may assist. As the fact is that the resources from the Legal Services Corporation, as well as number of clients they can take on, is limited. Certified elder law attorneys, some of which may work for free and/or contingency basis based on the client’s income, will specialize in issues faced by Americans over the age of 60. They will be in touch with the latest and most complicated fraud as well as scams out there. Read more on Elder Law Attorney assistance programs.
Counselors from Department of Justice certified credit counseling agencies can provide support on recovering from financial scams. They can help seniors rebuild their credit if they were impacted by identify theft. There are also many debt collectors that are very aggressive when dealing with the elderly, and those practices are often border line illegal. Counselors can therefore help in stopping those collection efforts as well as provide assistance on loans and more. Find more help with debts and loans.
The AARP also helps senior citizens as well as retirees identify scams. There are hundreds of full time as well as volunteers that work with this non-profit to provide free advice and support to senior citizens. The AARP Foundation ElderWatch will also help the senior take legal action if/when appropriate. For more information on their services, or if you think you are the victim of a scam or fraud o if you have a question on whether an offer sounds like fraud, dial 1-800-222-4444, option 2. This national non-profit is focused on preventing scams of the elderly.
Suggestions for identifying and avoiding senior scams
If there is any question at all, call one or more of the organizations above for help. That being said, it is always worthwhile to have more knowledge though. Therefore here are additional things to be aware of, or on the lookout for.
- When dealing with a doctor/medical provider, always ask for costs up front. Always ask what is covered by insurance, keep records, and do not pass insurance information.
- Internet fraud can come in many forms. Do not click on unknown emails or pop-ups, download files or links, or enter financial information into an unknown website.
- Fraud often occurs over the phone, especially when it comes to financial scams. Never give account numbers and ask for company identification to research them. Also, the IRS will never call a senior saying they are under audit.
- Investment scams, including for reverse mortgages, have many fraudsters that are involved in this industry. They make promises to seniors on how much return they can make on their money, try to push mortgages, and more, so be very cautious in dealing with dollars and cents.
- Scams on Medicare as well as other medical issues are common. Do not provide account numbers, review copies of all bills/statements, and be wary of insurance companies trying to sell additional coverage.
- Sweepstakes frauds promise that the senior citizen “won” something if they just mail in a check. Almost 100% of these deals are some form of fraud.
- The elderly often need help in repairing their home and hire a contractor. Shop around to different companies, review online reviews such as Angie List, ask for insurance, and get all quotes/terms and conditions in writing. Do not agree to “hand-shake” deals and be aware of price gouging.
Those are a few tips to follow. As noted, always report elder abuse fraud. This will prevent other seniors from being hit as well by the same companies. Never be embarrassed to report it as well, as hundreds of thousands of elderly people are impacted by one or more scams each year. State, local government offices, and the federal government can all be notified of fraud occurring, or call the Agency on Aging referral number above.