Top 10 Senior Scams
Be aware of the following top 10 scams that are targeting seniors.
SCAM: Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud
Medicare recipients will be receiving a new Medicare card between April 2018 – April 2019 free of charge, scammers will be posing as Medicare agents or health care providers telling seniors they need to purchase a replacement card.
The card is free, the only information you may need to provide is an updated mailing address. You can report scammers to 1-800-447-8744, or submit a complaint online to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (https://oig.hhs.gov/)
Funeral and Cemetery Scams
- Scammers attend funeral services and take advantage of the grieving family members by claiming that the deceased owed them money.
- Some funeral homes may scam family members who are unfamiliar with the cost of services by convincing them to purchase extra features.
Research the funeral home and average prices for the area you live in. Contact more than one funeral home for estimated prices. Do not pay someone without getting additional information or supporting documents.
Scammers call seniors and impersonate their grandchildren in order to convince them to send money. The scammers tell them not to tell their parents and to send the money via Western Union or MoneyGram. Seniors may receive a follow up call by someone impersonating a police officer asking for additional funds.
Do not give out your personal information over the phone or send money to unknown sources.
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
- Seniors receive a call saying that they have won the sweepstakes or lottery but in order to claim the winnings they will need to either pay or share personal information.
- Seniors may also receive a fake check in the mail with deposit instructions. The scammers collect money for fees and taxes before the check bounces.
Never hand over money for a prize that you supposedly won. Do your research and take notes.
SCAM: Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Scammers may be offering better prices on specialized medications, which may be fake and can also cause harm to individuals that take the unknown substance. The medicine may be outdated or a placebo pill.
- Ask your pharmacist for generic alternatives.
- Skip your insurance and pay cash for the medicine.
- Ask your doctor for any alternatives that may be cheaper.
- Look at warehouse clubs (Costco, Publix, Sams Club, Walmart, etc.).
Scammers target lonely seniors online by pretending to be a love interest. After gaining their trust, they will ask for financial gifts, plane tickets, or other travel opportunities to the U.S. and then disappear without a trace. Many sweetheart scammers pretend to be military service members stationed overseas.
Be careful of people who tell you a story that may not make sense, or who ask you for money soon after you correspond with them.
- Money may be solicited for fake charities.
- Seniors receive phone calls saying that a family member was in an accident and needs money to be wired.
- IRS phone scam.
- Caller ID spoofing-the name of your bank may show up in the caller ID.
- Do not call back an unknown number.
- Know that the IRS can only contact you by U.S. mail.
- Never send money to an unknown source.
- Research the charity.
SCAM: Internet Fraud
Beware of pop-up browsers that offer downloads for virus scanning software.
- Warn your family members about the scams.
- If you are not sure if it is a scam, go directly to the business’s website.
- Buy your virus and malware protection software at a store, not on a website.
- Fake personalized letters may be sent to an individual’s house on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office offering to assess the value of the home for a fee.
- Fake contractors may solicit seniors to offer a free service and then find other imaginary problems causing seniors to spend thousands of dollars.
- Contact the Dept. of Real Property and ask if they sent you the notice.
- Ask for proof of the contractor’s business license and get a second opinion.
SCAM: Fake IRS
Scammers impersonating the IRS in emails and or phone calls informing seniors that they are due a tax refund or have unpaid taxes. Seniors may be threatened to be arrested if they do not pay immediately.
While the IRS does use debt-collection agencies to call people who are behind on their taxes, make sure you never send money over the phone. They also cannot threaten to have you arrested for unpaid taxes.
Report a SCAM
- AARP ElderWatch - Call 1-800-222-4444, option 2 or report online at www.aarpElderWatch.org
- Better Business Bureau's SCAM Stopper
- Dept of the Aging, 716-373-8032
Contact the Dept. of the Aging with your questions.