Stay alert to these common senior scams!
- The Home Repair Scam
The Repair Scam can occur both on and offline. Due to loneliness or diminished capacity, the elderly are particularly vulnerable because most seniors live alone and may not be able to withstand a pushy salesman.
They may contact the victim by phone or email and say something like this: “Mrs. Brown, your new air conditioner has arrived, and we are ready to come and install it, but we just need your credit card information to run the payment and then we can get your installation scheduled.” This scam works because people often pay for things to save themselves embarrassment (they may not remember ordering something like a new air conditioner). People with genuine repair needs can suffer greater risks from unscrupulous vendors. They might be overcharged or charged multiple times for the same work.
- The Magazine Subscription Swindle
Anyone can be targeted for this one, but seniors are especially vulnerable. Here is how it works: For the last three months, your parents receive free issues of a magazine. Once the three months are over, the calls begin. The call might sound something like this: “Hi, Mr. Reader, this is Sally Fraudster in accounting with Free Catch Magazine. I’m calling because your subscription with us is approaching the deadline. You’ve received Free Catch Magazine for free for the last three months and according to the offer today is the final deadline. I just need your credit card to ensure timely delivery of your magazine.” Everything Sally Fraudster has said is true: Mr. Reader has received the magazine for free for the last three months, but Mr. Reader incorrectly believes he owes them money. This scam works because people with any form of memory impairment generally believe that they probably did order something. Similar to the Home Repair scam, con artists are banking on the elder preferring to pay up rather than suffer the embarrassment of trying to convince the caller that they did not place the order.
- The Uncollected Debt Scam
This scam preys on seniors at a very vulnerable time in their lives: after their spouse has died. Scammers search the obituaries hoping to find a widow. Then they call her and inform her that her husband left behind thousands of dollars of unpaid debt. The scammers often threaten the widow with financial ruin, eviction, and public disgrace unless the debt is paid immediately. This works in households where one person manages the finances. The widow does not want to be embarrassed and ends up paying the “alleged “debt to the criminals.
- The Phony Bank Inspector Scam
This is a scam which preys on the tendency of older people to have a “public spirit:” the phony bank inspector. It was detailed in an episode of Dragnet 1967. A criminal poses as bank inspector and pretends to investigate bank fraud at the senior’s bank. He calls the senior and asks the senior to help him with his investigation by withdrawing a large sum of money. Once the senior withdraws the money and hands it over to the phony inspector as “evidence,” the inspector disappears along with the money.
How to Find Help
If you are reading this and feel your parents may be vulnerable, don’t worry. There are consumer protection laws, government resources, and private companies such as True Link that can assist you. True Link has an innovative solution to help children protect their parents’ money from scammers. It’s a prepaid debit card that enables loved ones to set up controls, monitor spending, and provide alerts to ensure mom’s or dad’s money is safe.
Individual states may also offer additional consumer protection remedies. www.USA.gov has an excellent index of consumer agencies representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If your parents have been a victim, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. Remember, financial fraud against the elderly is often unreported; don’t let your case be another one of them.