Roughly 20 percent of Americans aged 65 or older already have been taken advantage of financially by inappropriate investment opportunities, unreasonably high fees for financial services or outright fraud, according to a recent survey by Investor Protection Trust.
Some common senior scams include:
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Victims usually receive letters stating they have won a lottery or sweepstakes; sometimes claiming to be from Publisher's Clearing House or Reader's Digest. The letters tell victims to deposit an enclosed check and wire a portion back to the company to cover taxes or administration fees. The funds initially appear in the bank account, but are removed when the bank determines the check is fake.
- Medicare Scams: Scammers claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, social security, credit card or bank account numbers. Seniors should know Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information.
- Bereavement Scams: Scammers call widows or widowers and claim their spouses had outstanding debts that need to be paid immediately. If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.
- Investment and Work at Home Opportunities: Promises of easy money often target older adults because they may be looking to supplement their incomes. The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. The victim is offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes. Always research any work at home opportunity with the BBB. Beware of investment or money-making offers that seem too good to be true or use high pressure sales tactics to get you to sign up immediately.
For more advice on avoiding scams and fraud visit bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-scams.
"Having a serious conversation with your elderly parents about how they are managing their money is not easy, but it is extremely important in order to help protect them from unscrupulous crooks," said Alison Southwick, BBB spokesperson.