We at Caregiverlist bring this up every year: the elderly and their loved ones need to be extra cautious of holiday scam artists. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that up to 80 percent of scam victims are over 65.
According to the National Council on Aging, here are some of the more common holiday scams targeted to seniors:
According to the Better Business Bureau, Medicare scammers ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers and promise in return free products and services to be paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. In October of this year, CBS MoneyWatch reported that the FTC shut down a scam in which millions of dollars were allegedly stolen from older Americans by callers who claimed to be working on behalf of Medicare. Those who gave their information saw hundreds of dollars in bank account withdrawals.
Beware the Nigerian Prince
Most seniors don’t have extensive experience with the internet and email, making them perfect targets for online scams. Oftentimes, there is a promise of lottery winnings or release of funds if the winner just pays an upfront fees. Scam artists collect bank routing and account numbers and, of course, the senior never sees dime one.
Dearly Departed Debt
In an especially onious scam, victims are found through obituaries. Victims are recent widows or widowers who are contacted and told that their deceased spouse had left behind thousands of dollars in debt. Usually flush with recent insurance money, the victim will seek to resolve the debt rather than face “financial ruin, eviction, and public disgrace.”
The Old “Grandparent Scam”
The Grandparent Scam is nothing new but the over the holidays, when many college kids find themselves back home over winter break, grandparents can find themselves on the receiving end of a disquieting call. “Often, the scammer will pose as a grandchild in college and tell the grandparent that they are in legal trouble or even physical danger,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote in a letter to colleges and universities across the state. “They will ask the unsuspecting grandparent to wire money immediately and, as a means of avoiding detection, ask the victim not to tell other family members about the situation.”
Why are the Elderly More Vulnerable to Fraud?
It may be that the part of the brain that detects suspicious looks and behavior becomes less active as we age. A study done by professors at UCLA has found that the area of the brain called the anterior insula diminishes the older we get, and “untrustworthy” faces can’t be distinguished from the trustworthy. Also, social neuroscientist Shelley Taylor of the University of California, Los Angeles, asserts that “Older people are good at regulating their emotions, seeing things in a positive light, and not overreacting to everyday problems.” However, this trait may make them less wary and more susceptible to scams.
So have that talk with your senior loved one or client and make them aware that, especially at this time of year, they can easily fall victim to fraud. If you or a senior you know has been the victim of a scam or fraud, report it to your local police department and Department on Aging. You may help prevent others from becoming victims as well.