There are 5 million cases of elder fraud in the United States annually, resulting in $27.4 billion in losses. Most victims don't report it, due to embarrassment. As awareness of this issue grows, so does the brazenness of those committing the frauds.
Too Trusting = Susceptibility
How retirees can fight scammers
Seniors seem to be most susceptible to fraud and abuse; they come from a generation that trusted. Baby boomers are more skeptical. But I think as you age, you want to believe in the goodness of people, and that makes you more vulnerable.
Seniors are in more frequent contact with medical professionals who can steal their vital information. My brother-in-law's identity was stolen by someone who stole a credit card receipt for his inpatient hospital TV service.
A lot of seniors pick up the phone and stay on the phone because they long for someone to talk to. They're simply lonely. We had a friend whose mother was called by someone asking if they were having problems with their computer. She literally stayed on the phone for an hour and a half with the person. Thankfully she was not compromised in any way, to our knowledge.
The latest scams: Start with Social Security
Thirty-five percent of people who were notified that their personal information was involved in a breach in 2017 had their Social Security numbers compromised.
It typically starts with a robocall. Someone writing for AARP actually called the number back and provided fake information just to gauge the process. The caller first asks for your name, address and social security number. The AARP reporter provided fake information but the caller persisted, outlining alleged fraud that happened with that social security number. They try to confuse and scare you. In this particular case, they said that they had to issue a new social security number and that someone would call back. They did, and the caller ID actually read "social security administration." Bottom line: The caller told the reporter he had to clear his accounts and buy gift cards to purchase bonds, then call them back with the numbers.
According to the U.S. PIRG – Public Interest Research Group – website: "With full name, birth date and Social Security number, a thief can try to open a Social Security account in your name and change your direct deposit information to his or her checking account." They continue: "Coupled with other information that can easily be found online, such as place of birth, a thief can try to claim your benefits over the phone."
How can you prevent fraud?
Sign up for a "my Social Security" account and closely monitor it. See instructions at: ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10540.pdf.
Log into your Social Security account regularly and check your personal information, such as your address or date of birth. If you see changes, contact the Social Security Administration (800-772-1213 or by email: secure.ssa.gov/emailus).
To report possible fraud or identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Aging fraud hotline at 800-303- 9470.
Love blooms – or does it?
Romance scams are popular. In 2015, the FTC and Federal Bureau of Investigation's Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 21,000 complaints combined, costing victims $204 million.
Scammers use social media and dating sites to initiate contact. They quickly move off the dating sites to communicate, spending weeks or months developing relationships. They may send gifts and then ask for small sums of money for supposed minor emergencies in order to test the waters.
They may try to get you to act as a mule, receiving money or goods purchased with stolen credit cards. Some victims have been used to transport drugs.
Warning signs include not being able to meet with the person face to face.
Check the person's photograph for authenticity: tineye.com and Google's "search by image" can help you determine if the same picture appears with other names and in other places.
If the person claims to be working for an overseas business, call the U.S. Embassy in the appropriate country to verify.
Do not send money, and don't provide personal identifying and financial information online or over the phone.
Common types of scams
I have only touched the surface of the scams taking place. They include:
- Telemarketing/phone scams.
- Medicare fraud.
- Tax fraud.
- Funeral and cemetery scams.
- Internet fraud.
- Reverse mortgage scams.
- Sweepstakes and lottery schemes.
- Grandparent scam.
- Stealing mail.
Stay safe: How to prevent fraud
Prevention is always your best option. Here are some tips:
- Self-monitor your credit and bank statements, as well as your medical bills.
- Consider signing up for identity theft protection and identity theft insurance.
- If you're hiring anyone to come into the house, conduct background checks.
- Purchase a home safe or safe-deposit box.
- Shred, shred, shred your paperwork.
- Consider a security wallet or handbag that protects against credit card skimming.
- Get your mail soon after it's delivered, and stop mail when away. Get statements online. As scary as it sounds, online bill paying is the safest way to go. Be on the alert if your utilities, banks, credit card companies or other businesses stop sending email or paper notifications, as identity thieves often change addresses to hide criminal activity.
Notify the right agencies
- Long-term care identity theft: Report a claim to the long-term care ombudsman in your state, if the theft was a result of a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
- Medical identity theft: Contact your health insurance company's fraud department or Medicare's fraud office.
- Tax identity theft: Report this type of ID theft to the Internal Revenue Service and your state's Department of Taxation or Revenue.
- Notify your credit reporting agencies, financial institutions and retailers.
- Notify your state consumer protection offices or attorney general.
Fraud, abuse and scams are as old as time and seem to progress us we get older. Instead get smarter. Fight back. And let's put some people in jail.
|For more news you can use to help guide your financial life, visit our Insights page.|