14 Infuriating Scams That Target Seniors

7. Magazine Sales

Have you been hit up by a precocious kid or teen trying to sell enough magazines to support charity or go to camp? Did you buy a magazine subscription that never arrived? Unfortunately, magazine scams fool a lot of people because it’s hard to believe that the friendly person knocking at your door could be a scammer.

Avoid being scammed by never letting door-to-door peddlers inside your house. If there is a real offer, full details should be available upfront and it won’t be available “for a limited time only.” If you have to act immediately, don’t act. Ask to see written information, and never give out your credit card information unless you are actually making a payment. Get more tips on avoiding magazine scams here.

8. Health Insurance/Medicare

It’s pretty easy for a scammer to assume a senior citizen has Medicare since everyone 65 and up qualifies. A scammer can call claiming to be a Medicare representative and then ask for your Social Security number or try to charge you for services or additional policies. Remember that people from Social Security or Medicare will already have your information, and neither agency will charge a fee to issue you a card.

9. Funeral Fraud

There are actually people who scan obituaries to identify grieving widows and widowers. The scammer then contacts the bereaved person and claims that their deceased loved one had outstanding debts of some kind. Some scammers may go so far as to show up at the funeral.

If this happens to you, have a trusted friend help you navigate the situation. Be wary of anyone demanding immediate payment, making threats, or playing on your emotions. Some scammers try to elicit anger so that you’ll just give them what they want rather than verifying their claims.

10. Anti-Aging and Health Products

We all know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Still, it’s hard to resist a product that promises to burn fat, reduce wrinkles, increase energy, or cure an ailment. Seniors are often targeted with anti-aging or health products claiming to be new, all-natural, or offered at a low price.

Remember that if a product is truly amazing, it will be carried in a store. Be wary of anyone approaching you in person, over the phone, or over email offering to sell you healthcare products or supplements. Also be aware of fake Botox labs giving out ineffective and potentially dangerous Botox treatments. If you do choose to get a Botox treatment, make sure you are getting one from a reputable, well-established provider.

11. Over-the-phone

Older adults are more likely to make purchases over the phone, and scammers capitalize on this with a variety of fake offers. Look out for these tactics:

  • The Pigeon Drop: This is when someone claims to have a large amount of money that they want to share with you, but they need some sort of “good faith” payment or access to your bank account before they can give it to you.
  • The Emergency Situation: A caller claims that a loved one is in the hospital or in trouble and needs money wired to them right away.
  • The Charity Appeal: Some scammers call posing as representatives from legitimate charities asking for donations. These happen more often after a natural disaster and prey on people’s desire to help.
  • The No-Fail Investment Opportunity: Look out for people contacting you with investment opportunities, unlooked-for inheritance money, or complicated financial products. Scammers often exploit on the desire of older adults to have a secure retirement income.

Always ask for something in writing before donating, don’t give out money to third parties, and don’t pay money in order to get more money. Make investments with a trusted financial advisor, and watch out for “now-or-never” opportunities.

12. Sweepstakes

You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter, and you should never have to pay any type of fee to collect a prize. Don’t give out personal information or money to anyone claiming you’ve won a trip, car, cash prize, or other luxury item. Scammers may even send you a check that you can deposit into your bank account and then ask you for money for a fee or for taxes. They’ll keep that money and you’ll be left empty-handed when the original check bounces. Remember, a real prize should be 100% free.

13. Prescription Drugs

This one is tough because the prescription drug market can be confusing, and sometimes there are better offers available online. Unfortunately, scammers know that people search online for better drug prices and sometimes offer fake drugs. It’s better to contact your insurance carrier for information on better drug prices as they should be motivated to help you find better prices for legitimate drugs. Be careful about online drug offers, and consult a trusted friend, or better yet, your doctor, if you are unsure.

14. Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage

It’s wonderful to finally own your home, but it’s not so great that owning a home makes you a popular fraud target. Beware of official-looking letters that display information about your home—is it really just public information that a clever person could find online? If you receive a letter like this asking for a fee, be sure to confirm by calling the agency the letter claims to be from.

Also be wary of people that pressure you to get a reverse mortgage and anyone that pops up suddenly after you have obtained a reverse mortgage, like home repair companies. When it comes to home repairs, it’s best to adopt an “I’ll call you” policy.

Tips To Protect Yourself

The above list is unfortunately not exhaustive, and scammers change their tactics constantly. To protect yourself at all times, keep in mind these general tips:

  • Know that theft and fraud is often committed by friends and family members. Be wary of anyone trying to get money out of you, especially if you feel pressured, rushed, or suspicious.
  • Shred paperwork that has credit card numbers or your social security number.
  • Don’t give out your credit card number, banking information, Social Security number, or other personal information over the phone unless you did the calling.
  • Review medical bills carefully.
  • Be wary of anything that requires a fast decision. Legitimate offers don’t disappear overnight.
  • Use direct deposit whenever possible to reduce risk of checks being stolen from your mailbox or home.
  • Ask for something in writing. A legitimate organization or charity will be able to send you information in the mail.
  • Watch your emotions. Emotions are powerful, and if you see or hear something that makes you sad, scared, or angry, you may make a decision without thinking it through
  • Just say no. You do not need to feel guilty if you don’t buy from a traveling salesperson or a solicitor asking for charity donations. If someone is upset when you say no, that’s their fault, not yours.

If you’ve been the victim of fraud or a scam, don’t be ashamed. Help stop scammers by reporting them. You can call AARP at 1-800-222-4444 and they can refer you to the appropriate agency or service. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov and call your bank and credit card companies.

Stay safe out there, and don’t take any wooden nickels!

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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